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Stats confirm bike theft problem

Posted by on November 18th, 2005 at 7:50 am

Bike theft is on the rise. I had 20 stolen bikes listed on this site in October alone. And from what I’ve heard, the thieves are getting more and more brazen, sawing racks in half, taking the entire rack with them, and even coming into homes while the victim sleeps just feet away!

According to this official map just sent to me by the Portland Police Bureau, there were 315 bike thefts reported between 9/1/05 and 11/12/05 (shown on map below as blue squares).

Here is the breakdown by precinct (precinct map):

  • Central (downtown) – 100
  • Southeast – 86
  • Northeast – 52
  • East – 49
  • North – 25

I’ve heard of vigilante efforts, stings, more cooperation with law enforcement, a more comprehensive listing service, etc… It’s clear the energy and anger is out there to make something happen, but so far no major efforts have come forth. Should we rely on law enforcement? Should we take this into our own hands? Is it a matter of just being more careful with our bikes?

(Thanks to the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division for this map)

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  • John C November 18, 2005 at 8:45 am

    Of course we, as a bicycle community, should be vigilant and aware of the things that are going on concerning bike theft. To rely just on the Portland Police would amount to failure. We need to work together with the PDX police to help stop this problem. Our business was broken into (again), and while the police seem to have a concerned demeanor they also have a lack of conviction for catching the thieves. It’s an attitude of “just another theft, and we probably won’t catch them”. They even went so far as to say even if we had cameras in the business it would be hard to convict someone (we have an alarm only). I don’t want to sound like they are not doing a good job, it’s just my opinion.

    John C

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  • Chris Smith November 18, 2005 at 10:57 am

    We heard in Amsterdam that something like 10% of all bikes are stolen every year. So this is not a unique problem to Portland, but I agree we should work on finding a unique Portland solution.

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  • Joel November 18, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    But from where are they stolen in Amsterdam? I think part of what makes this such a problem here is that they’re being stolen out of locked garages and houses.

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  • nate November 18, 2005 at 7:39 pm

    One question is where are these stolen bikes going? On every other corner in Amsterdam an addict will sell you a bike for 20 euros.

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  • Peter W November 21, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Nate brings up a great question – where are the stolen bikes going? I think a related question is – who is stealing them?

    Something helpful the police could do is spend some effort analyzing the big picture and doing whatever investigation they can to figure out if this is mainly individuals stealing a bike for themself, or something more sinister, like stealing bikes and selling them elsewhere. Of course that would be a heck of a lot easier if they’d catch a theif or two!

    It would be nice if all bikes had unique numbers on them, like a car’s VIN (vehicle identification number). I think the other requirement for a better stolen bike recovery system would be to have bikes registered with a nationwide database accessible by shops and cops, but then you have the problems of needing money to maintain the database, and the possibility of invasion of privacy by cops or whoever else can access the database.

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  • Peter W November 21, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    while we’re on the subject, folks be sure to read up on preventing bike theft:

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  • Jonathan Maus November 22, 2005 at 8:37 am

    Peter, I think bike shops and local law enforcement should team up with the National Bike Registry. The Police department of the city of Shasta California just started offering free registration with the NBR for anyone that wants it. Wonder if we could do that here? I’m going to try and get in touch with the local cops on this issue. Hope to report back soon.

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  • Peter W November 22, 2005 at 9:39 am

    Jonathan, I saw the National Bike Registry website too and thought it was a good idea, but it seemed like a commercial business and its website was a bit dated. Since they normally require money from people to register a bike, I wonder how many folks would actually use the service. The fact that their website is dated isn’t really a problem but it makes me wonder what happens if this business isn’t making enough money at some point? Can we rely on them to stick around and what would happen to the registry data if they go under?

    Of course, if the PDX police would help get people registered for free that would rock.

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  • Jonathan Maus November 22, 2005 at 10:09 am

    Peter, there’s also which seems much cooler and up to date than the NBR.

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  • Peter W November 22, 2005 at 11:29 am

    It would be helpful to have more info from the police. Specifically, if we could see how many bikes were reported on every date that they have info for, we could for example get an idea of on which days bikes are most likely to be stolen, and if they are being stolen one at a time (probably by indivdual thieves) or like 20 at a time every couple weeks (possibly by bike thief gangs or something).

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  • skylermoon November 23, 2005 at 10:30 pm

    Though many of us hate mass media maybe its what we need. Think about the accumulated value of our bikes. I mean most of the bikes that we are seeing stolen on this website and on craigslist are Expensive bikes I know many of these bikes are worth WAY MORE then my $500.00 car. I think if we work together and start talking to the media about reporting on the growing problem of bike theft in Portland (one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the united states.) maybe we can get people to start keeping an eye out as a city not only a community.

    Just my 2 bits.
    If you want information about the Sellwood community crime watch you can email me at as soon as I can get some donations there will also be a online blog for homes and businesses to report problems to the community. That website address has been registered and is

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  • […] The Wise Old Bicycle Guy has been working on a unique way to combat our growing bike theft problem. His idea is to “unsteal” bikes by fixing them up from donated parts and giving them back to bike theft victims…for free. […]

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