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  #1  
Old 04-21-2011, 09:25 AM
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beelnite beelnite is offline
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Angry Bike Thieves: Know Thy Enemy

Been following Jonathan's post with the suspected bike thief picture.

It occurs to me I know nothing about bike thieves! Like I commented we know more about the mafia (doesn't exist) and Mexican drug cartels than we do about the bike theft "industry."

Right now I'm looking for a dark hooded sweatshirt, jeans and a lump that looks like a hacksaw, crowbar or bolt cutter... IRONICALLY the suspect in the picture is wearing EXACTLY what I would expect...

We get prevention tips, sure, but I want more. I want to see the "underside" and yes, I want a profile of a bike thief - no matter how diverse or broad.

Don't you? Where can we find that?

Maybe we can tell the "story" of bike thieving in PDX and begin to put a face on it.

Any thoughts or experiences you'd like to share?
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Old 04-21-2011, 11:07 AM
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In the past, there's been plenty of discussion about bike thieves and the type of person that would or could be one. Down and out people lacking in ethics and concern for the predicament their thievery puts other people in is probably a common trait. As times get economically tougher though, people with a higher sense of principles might be inclined to give bike theft a go.

This is probably true, partly because, as numerous people's comments to bikeportland have related, bike theft is increasingly easy due to the common availability of information about how to defeat bike locks, plus, the common availability of low priced, portable, battery powered metal cutting tools. Then there's craigslist, ebay, and other online sales outlets, so people don't even need a fence. They can strip, part out, and market stolen bike components from the security of their home.

To me, bikeportland editor Jonathan Maus's decision to blur the suspected bike thief's face...after he had the picture clearly showing the suspects face, visible on bikeportland for hours, is strange. What's he say to explain why he decided to do this? Something about the person's safety.

If he's innocent of bike theft, all the suspected bike thief needs to do, is walk into the police station and say 'Hey...I think there's been some confusion about what I was doing, as shown in the picture posted to the bike weblog.', and proceed to explain. I'm sure maus would be delighted to run a story about how the person holding a hacksaw over a lock attached to a bike, wasn't actually in the process of attempting to steal a bike.
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Old 04-21-2011, 12:13 PM
Alan Alan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beelnite View Post
Been following Jonathan's post with the suspected bike thief picture.

It occurs to me I know nothing about bike thieves! Like I commented we know more about the mafia (doesn't exist) and Mexican drug cartels than we do about the bike theft "industry."

Right now I'm looking for a dark hooded sweatshirt, jeans and a lump that looks like a hacksaw, crowbar or bolt cutter... IRONICALLY the suspect in the picture is wearing EXACTLY what I would expect...

We get prevention tips, sure, but I want more. I want to see the "underside" and yes, I want a profile of a bike thief - no matter how diverse or broad.

Don't you? Where can we find that?

Maybe we can tell the "story" of bike thieving in PDX and begin to put a face on it.

Any thoughts or experiences you'd like to share?
Heck, I'd like to even know Jonathon's moderation policies, at this point. For whatever reason, after my first post in that thread about "PKB" he chose to "moderate" (i.e. not publish) this post:
So, the PPD AREN'T acting on an eyewitness account with photographic evidence and they DON'T want citizen involvement in identifying the perpetrator? I fail to see how that will (a) deter thieves in general, (b) help that individual if drugs are his problem, or (c) reduce the likelihood of either that individual or crooks in general facing illicit street justice.
Yes, I'm challenging his decision, but I don't think my comment is personally insulting or otherwise out-of-line. My understanding of his policy is that comments should be something that could be said even in a family discussion in his living room (paraphrasing, but I think that's close to what he's said). If it's something else, or if I violated that, I'd like to know more.

I'm not so sure about the mafia "not existing" but maybe that's a matter of defining of "exist," what with New York continuing to indite and sentence (just this week!) various crime family members. There are plenty of other crime syndicates with family/ethnic bonds, too, of course.

Caroline Paquette, in her posts in that thread, puts a hypothetical person behind that photo and I suspect she is fairly accurate in her portrayal of the bike thief's character. They are down-and-out, likely with a drug habit to support, and turn to the lowest barrier-to-entry of petty theft for quick money.

The operation of car-theft rings and related "chop shops" is pretty well understood. It's not anywhere near as high-profit or highly organized as typical syndicate crime (drug distribution, human trafficking, fraud, etc.) but it is well-organized among multiple individuals with profit as the driving motive (differentiated from drug habit money). It normally involves less than a couple dozen people and tends to be fairly local (avoids crossing state lines).

Based on anecdotal news stories I've read about bike theft, it is considerably smaller in scope than even those car-theft operations. Heck, the whole bike marketplace is a tiny fraction of the size of cars and operates on relatively small gross capital and thin margins. How can there be much headroom for a huge blackmarket on top of such existing market structures? My strong impression is that bike theft operations (and there are many simultaneous operations) tend to be one or two desperate guys trying to scrape together cash to support bad habits, and they sell to a diffuse market structure composed of online direct sales (Craigslist, eBay, etc), garage sales, one-off street deals, and some bad pawn operations. There probably is some degree of "middle man" in some of those, for example someone building mix'n'match bikes out of stripped parts and selling the product, but again I suspect it's a pretty small operation...one guy in his garage sort of thing.

I don't mean to minimize the problem, and there are certainly other models for bike theft, for example sophisticated thieves after high-end components. But even in that case, is it really enough to support more than one or two crooks per ring? If it were the scale of auto chop-shops, with organized thieves, choppers and distributors, wouldn't we see the occasional bust of shops or garages chock full of top-end gear? The overall effect of lots of small-time operations is just as bad as one big operation and harder to put a complete stop to it, and I, too, would like to see more real research into the problem, but I have a feeling that cops see enough of the small-time stuff to adequately account for the volume of reports they receive.

PS - My post got approved. I think what happened is that it just happened to fall in the time window where Jonathon slapped moderation onto that article's comments, all of them, not just me or my content. I was still able to post under other articles. It's the second time that it's happened recently, though, so clarification would be appreciated.

Last edited by Alan; 04-21-2011 at 05:43 PM. Reason: PS added
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Old 04-21-2011, 02:13 PM
Alan Alan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wsbob View Post
To me, bikeportland editor Jonathan Maus's decision to blur the suspected bike thief's face...after he had the picture clearly showing the suspects face, visible on bikeportland for hours, is strange. What's he say to explain why he decided to do this? Something about the person's safety.
Well, to be fair, it was his and his family's safety that Jonathon says concerned him. I'm not convinced there is a real threat, but that's up to him to evaluate.

What I would hope to see is for others to pick up the story including the photo and thus dilute and divert any such threat away from BikePortland. Plenty of other bloggers can post it, and it's a shoe-in for bike stores to post paper copies on their bulletin boards, or for more guerilla posting in the usual spots.
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Old 04-21-2011, 04:33 PM
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Well, to be fair, it was his and his family's safety that Jonathon says concerned him. I'm not convinced there is a real threat, but that's up to him to evaluate.

What I would hope to see is for others to pick up the story including the photo and thus dilute and divert any such threat away from BikePortland. Plenty of other bloggers can post it, and it's a shoe-in for bike stores to post paper copies on their bulletin boards, or for more guerilla posting in the usual spots.

"Well, to be fair, it was his and his family's safety ...".

Maus could easily, and in a way that would give the weblog professional cred, distance himself from some news the weblog reports. He has alluded in past to bikeportland's objective of being a credible news source rather than just one guy's musings. For the kind of report this story was, Maus didn't have to use his name for the byline. The byline could have simply been 'Bikeportland', or 'Bikeportland reports'.
On other, previous occasions, maus, after he has claimed his intent is to report the news, has written stories, mixing lots of personal opinion into to the story in in ways that do not allow a clear distinction to be made as to whether what has been reported is fact, or rather, something that's very much a product of his opinion. Professional news sources do 'Opinion' pieces for that, but I don't think maus ever has done so with writing of his own on the weblog.
Maus didn't elaborate on why he decided to blur the photo, or provide and explanation of what he was told that would give him legitimate to consider that a clearly discernible image of the bike theft suspect's face might pose a threat to him or his family. The conclusion I would draw from this, is that there's likely more to this story...more that maus has been told by the police or someone else, that he's not he's not telling the readers.


By the way, maybe it's because I don't 'tweet' have a cell phone, or play around on any of the wide range of social networking sites, but it turns out I'm one of the people that has no idea what PKB is. Maybe you could fill me in.
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Old 04-21-2011, 05:33 PM
Alan Alan is offline
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Originally Posted by wsbob View Post
By the way, maybe it's because I don't 'tweet' have a cell phone, or play around on any of the wide range of social networking sites, but it turns out I'm one of the people that has no idea what PKB is. Maybe you could fill me in.
Heh! Sure! It's an old Usenet TLA for "Pot/Kettle/Black", referring to the much older homily, "the pot calling the kettle black." And more power to you for resisting those modern-day evils.
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Old 04-21-2011, 10:46 PM
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Pot/Kettle/Black. Okay. I remember looking at your post on the main page, but for some reason, I couldn't deduce what it was supposed to mean. Not understanding what thought you were trying to convey in your comment there, I also couldn't tell you why maus would have felt the need to delete it.

The whole bike thieving phenomena is complex. On the one hand, while it would be nice to occasionally identify and confront the persons that do it, as this unique instance may eventually produce an opportunity for, it may not really make any difference getting this particular guy. It hasn't been reported what quality of bike the one being apparently targeted was, but the one of the reader comments today suggests it probably isn't much (said the bike was still there, locked up, theory was that it was abandoned.). So despite the sensational value of actually having a photo snapped of a suspected thief in action, clearly showing the suspected thief's face...realistically, it might not be that important for everyone in Portland to have an idea of what the guy looks like. There's that favoring maus's decision to blur the photo.

I think it was the comment of the person named Esther that expressed being not particularly concerned about bike theft by people that are down and out, rationalizing that if not bike theft, it would likely be worse crimes. There's some truth to the idea that worse crimes for money could be committed, but that's not much comfort to people that get ripped off of what's often their vital transportation link.

Though in Old Town, it might be people that are down and out that are stealing bikes for re-sale, that characterization probably is increasingly not realistic for bike theft in general. Bikes are becoming increasingly sophisticated technically, and also more expensive. Enough of them pulled together for parts could be worth big money. I think that, just as with everything else in this world, there are some people especially suited for a life of crime; they love it and thrive on it, take pride in it and embrace it as a challenge by which to make their place in the world.

Start taking even as little as mental notes of the range of bikes that are stolen (I glance at them on maus's 'stolen bikes' posting on the main page.). They aren't all cheap beaters. High end racing bikes...those dutch bike things...highbrids, cross-bikes.... . As bikes get to be more of a big deal, it's not just people that are down and out that are looking to cash in. The down and out people might go to the brighter, more ambitious people (fences, I suppose is the old term)for fast cash. Anywhere there's the potential for money, some smart people will be looking to cash in.

So forget about the crackhead stereotype, as far as 'What a bike thief looks like.'. A smart, ambitious bike thief that wants to do more than simply get high (maybe they aren't even interested in risking addiction.) might dress up in college prep clothes if he wanted steal hybrid commuter bikes. Something decent looking. Well groomed, boring, non-threatening.

Last edited by wsbob; 04-21-2011 at 10:51 PM.
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Old 04-22-2011, 02:44 PM
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beelnite beelnite is offline
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Alan and WS B - That was awesome knowledge drop right there gents. Thank you.

Heheh, "the mafia doesn't exist" just a little personal joke of mine. From "Goodfellas."
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Old 04-23-2011, 10:37 AM
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Haha! I would never have gotten the Goodfellas reference. Tthanks!

There's some truth in both my impression and wsbob's and probably also some misconceptions, and they have quite a bit of difference between them. That makes me think it's a "blind men and an elephant" situation, where the problem (bike theft & fencing) is big, poorly known and has many different aspects, so different people see different parts of it. Beelnite's original question about a profile for the whole bike theft underworld could use much better answers. Sure would be nice to see a sociology or criminology study of it, and maybe some practical applications at the police level. I'm not holding my breath.
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:24 PM
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Dovestrobe Dovestrobe is offline
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Default I post this YouTube Vid here...

I've posted this YouTube video several times on bikeforum.com and wished to post it here. Main reason is that if a bike thief is going to steal Your bike, nothing will stop him or her! Best not to park a bike for long periods or worser still to park it overnight somewhere. I wish this wasn't such a problem. You check the listing of bikes stolen in Portland and on an almost daily basis 2-4 bikes are stolen. Makes me sick.

Bike Thief Portland Oregon (April 19th, 2011, soon after this picture was taken, bike thief rode off on blue bike pictured in background)


Video regarding the upswing in thievery in London, England.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AdugFzCi24
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Last edited by Dovestrobe; 08-08-2011 at 01:29 PM.
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