What the heck is going on? Seems like every time I log on there are more stolen bikes to publish. There are 107 listed so far and I’m averaging about one a day for the past 2 months…and that’s only what gets listed here! There are surely many other bikes stolen throughout the city every day.
The good news is that the listings are working. We’re re-united bikes with their owners just by staying vigilant and keeping our eyes peeled. On that note, I’ve just sent out the first Stolen Bike Digest to 46 subscribers that includes almost all the local bike shops. So the number of eyeballs looking out for stolen bikes is growing.
I also think the sheer number of listings and several recent recovery stories have helped put the bike theft issue on the radar screen of more people. One recent story got noticed by KATU-TV and ran on the 11 o’clock news.
Last week I got called into a meeting with the Lieutenant of the Portland Police Traffic Division. He wanted to know how the Police could work with us to help prevent theft and do a better job of recovering them once they’re stolen.
The first step will be a bike theft prevention resource on the web. PDOT is also collaborating on this resource and we’re meeting with the Lieutenant again next week to present an outline of what content should be included. The next step will be to develop some sort of registry or database. It’s no secret that my listings are very basic and I’d like to make them into a form with required fields and ultimately sync that information with the police records. But this would take two things I don’t have; programming skills and money.
So for now, I’ll focus on putting together some solid bike theft prevention information that will include web links, lock recommendations, etc… To kick things off, I’ve published an article that was sent to me by a local veteran bike shop employee who has ridden for over 20 years and has never had a bike stolen.
If you have tips, lock recommendations, web resources, or anything about bike theft prevention you’d like to share, please do so below. Your input will help develop this upcoming resource.
i wonder where the demand for so many stolen bikes is. maybe three times i’ve seen meth-heads hawking bike merch downtown, but that can’t be the only thing they do with the bikes. all the bike shops in town surely check that the bikes aren’t stolen, right? so where do all the stolen bikes end up?
from now on, the meth-heads downtown are going to get more than a hurried, scolding “where did you get that?” from me.
Get a good lock:
Thread on BikeForums.net.
Wikipedia entry for “bicycle lock”
The recommended OnGuard Mini is available at REI:
http://tinyurl.com/az94c (REI product page)
Perhaps OnGuard locking skewers for wheels/seatpost:
http://tinyurl.com/l2ood (REI product page)
(Also available at Bike Gallery, perhaps others. Locking up properly avoids the $50 outlay, though I’ve considered them for one wheel so I don’t need to carry a cable as well)
Use it properly:
Kryptonite’s how-to page
Other thoughts, in no particular order:
1) I see discussions here and elsewhere assuming that tweakers are stealing these bikes and turning for quick cash, which makes a lot of sense. Do we know this to be true for the majority of cases? Let’s profile who’s doing this, how they work, and where they’re selling this stuff. Educate all the scrap yards and hawk shops about this problem and get their assistance.
2) Make sure surrounding communities like Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, etc have parity for their enforcement and strategy. If not, all we’ll succeed in doing is drive the problem out of Portland and into surrounding communities.
2b) Get the good parts of the bike culture to spread to surrounding areas. I want to see Beaverton install racks like Portland has been.
3) Make sure that riders from each community are part of the task force, privvy to meetings and strategy sessions so they can bring these ideas back to their own city council meetings.
3b) Make sure city law enforcement/gov’t is well represented on the task force for each surrounding community.
4) Get some local TV/radio/print spots going. As was mentioned before either here or the OBRA list, we need to give the general vibe that thieves are being watched and will be caught. They can’t afford to call our bluff. Make sure they think they can’t get away with it. Make sure the general public knows what kind of problem this is getting to be.
5) Most importantly, we need to make bike theft a waste of time for the bike thieves. Cut off the supply (good locks and racks, rider education), cut off the distribution channels, dry up the demand (educate the public). Hit them hard with penalties if they get caught, and be really public about it when they are.
There, I feel better. = )
my bike (a nine hundred pound schwinn) was stolen just about two weeks ago.
where will it end up? welllll, its not a bike that would be resold at a shop. . . . . .its more likely that whomever nabbed it, unloaded it a few blocks away for $20.
i *did* make a police report, but hold little hope for its return. its good to see the police turning even the smallest amount of attention to the issue.
in addition to joel!
i brought it to the attention of my neighborhood assn!
neighborhood assns seem an excellent venue for creating awareness and educational programs!
Regarding U-Locks, I should add the following. I’ve omitted names to protect the innocent.
I was in a local shop looking at ulocks to replace mine, and asked the guy helping me what he thought of OnGuard vs. Kryptonite. Paraphrasing here, he basically told me. Krypto and OnGuard use the same company’s cores for their locks, same keys. The difference is that OnGuard’s locks have more cams per core (8 vs. 5 IIRC) and cost about half as much. Needless to say, he owns an OnGuard, and later tonight, so will I.
I’m happy to hear about all these efforts. A suggestion: coordinating the cycle reporting registries, so that if info gets into one, it is transmitted automatically to the others. For example, if reported at bikeportland.org or stolenbicycleregistry.com then it also goes to the state and federal registries.
Here again, the reporting steps for when (if?) your bike is stolen:
– Report the theft to the local police, and tell them you want the info put on the LEDS (Oregon database) and the NCIC (national database).
– Report the theft at stolenbicycleregistry.com (run by an individual, very popular).
– Add the info to the “stolen bikes” section of bikeportland.org .
Here is the best info I found about LEDS:
Info about NCIC:
1) Don’t lock your bike by threading a chain from the bike rack to your quick-release front wheel. This drives me crazy.
2) Double check before you walk away that you haven’t performed some weird Mensa knotwork and actually left your bike completely free of the rack. Now THIS has happened to me. How embarrasing!
3) Don’t lock your bike to a street sign pole such that your bike can be lifted off it, lock and all. Besides, it’s “illegal.”
Maybe I’m ignorant, but I’m not sure what to do if I see a bike that’s possibly stolen besides check the stolen bike list on this site. (Thank you, Jonathan)
About a month ago, I saw a homeless guy sleeping in the doorway of a church downtown (about 3 pm). He didn’t have much of anything, but he had a really nice Trek road bike with him. I wondered if the bike might be stolen and checked the stolen bike list. It wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like I had enough reason to suspect that the bike was stolen to call the police. Can I check with the police to see if a bike is stolen without telling them where I saw the bike? I didn’t want the police bothering the guy unnecessarily.
the only bikes i see homeless people ride are the broken down MAGNA mtb with loads of bags on em….if i came across that guy i would have called the cops. i think anyone that has ever had a bike stolen and saw a homeless guy with a bike “out of his price range” would be temped to call the cops
I’m a web programmer, and this would be a worthy project. Perhaps I could help make it happen. Email me if you want.
The Sheldon Brown article referenced above is spot on about the best way to lock up a bicycle. A rather unintuitive point is about locking the rear wheel to the anchor point without running the lock around the frame. As long as you put the lock around the rear wheel inside the rear triangle, that effective locks the rear wheel and frame to the anchor point. That means you can go with a bit smaller U-lock than you might think.
Brooke, I like locking up this way for another reason: you can rest the bike against the crank arm and not bugger up the paint. The reason I usually don’t do this is 3-fold. It’s hard to do this in any place on the wavy staple rack that I usually use except the end positions when you ride a big bike like mine. Your bike can be much more tippy when locked this way. It leaves your front wheel unprotected unless you have a locking skewer or cable. Thus, enter the following: http://www.bikeracks.com/html/press.html. I used these at an apartment complex in the past and they were *fantastic*.
i too am furious and frustrated by all the theft going and have been lucky in this city, but had a bike stolen in the past so feel the pain, but i am equally frustrated with the pegging of tweekers and homeless people. i work closely with both populations and i do know that bike theft in the drug using (specifically with meth more often) community is high, but some of these comments are really ignorant. if a homeless person sleeping in a doorway has a nice bike it does not necessarily mean that it is stolen. you do not know this person’s past or present or experiences. we have nice trek bikes donated to our organization occassionally and we give them to clients who use them and love them just as much as you or i use and love our bike. basically, i just feel like this conversation is stereotyping and silencing an already marginalized and abused group of people. Cate, in my opinion you did the exact right thing. i do hope that we can work together to figure out how to decrease this problem. sorry for the rant.
I don’t mean to sound like a jerk but it seems to me that the most important thing is to ALWAYS lock your bike.
Every time I read about a bicycle stolen, the first thing I wonder is “was it locked?” Often I find out that it was not.
In the past five years, I can think of four people I know personally who have had bicycles stolen. In every instance, the theft could have been prevented simply by locking the bike — perhaps even to itself to prevent it from being ridden away.
ignoring it is not the “exact right thing,” patrick. you really think the $20 bike i was offered on the bus mall was something the guy bought in his previous life as a stockbroker? pfuh.
bike theft makes me angry. if meth-heads (or “tweakers,” awww) steal bikes to buy the toxic shit they like to have in their bodies, that makes me angry, too. they should be “marginalized” right off to jail.
Here is a post with lots of detailed info, copied shamelessly and without crediting from the old Shift online forum (now all but abandoned due to the popularity of the bikeportland.org forum)… the original poster can feel free to post here and claim credit.
Last year I helped host a bike security form with the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association (LDTMA). Present was a bike cop, the DA, the manager of the Lloyd buildings, the CCC, an Allied locksmith, and others. A video tape and DVD is available to borrow (503) firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is my synopsis:
1. THE BEST. Riggers chain and American Lock series #700, $70.00, 7lbs. The chain is virtually uncuttable and the locksmith has only seen or heard of the lock being cut ONCE. A good lock to leave at work to save carrying (although I carry mine around my waist like a belt). I found the cheapest price to be at Allied Locksmith (very near CityBikes). Slip a bike tube over the chain and its easier to handle. Riggers chain is what longshoremen use to load containers in ships. The locksmith cuts the chain with a circular saw and fiber (metal cutting) blade. The chain is so robust they need to cut both sides of the link, in other words someone wanting to cut this chain needs to make two cuts. It takes the locksmith over 5 minutes to accomplish this. The weak link is (as usual) the lock.
G102 Riggers Chain: triple alloy rigging chain
American #700 lock
Allied Security International (503) 281-1177
2. Almost ALL U-locks can be cut with 4′ bolt cutters according to the NY Bike Messengers Assn. FAQ ( http://www.nybma.com/faq/question3.htm ). This includes the u-lock on the Krypto chain (the thief then sells your bike AND chain).
3. ALL cable locks are Shit. ALL cable locks are SHIT. Did you hear that? ALL cable locks are SHIT. A pair of $30.00 dikes will cut ALL OF THEM. Just because they sell them doesn’t mean they work.
4. No bike in the Lloyd District has been stolen out of a bike locker.
And remember don’t use barrel locks since any crackhead can open many of them with a friggin Bic® pen. If you have a Kryptonite U-Lock with a barrel cylinder, go their website and get a replacement–it’s not too hard to do and I got mine!
For folks who get their bike stolen some details would be helpful like:
(1) Where it was taken from (ex.: bike staple in front of the Jolly Roger on 11th street) and what time of day?
(2) What kind of lock: maker, type of lock (barrel, flat key, combo), how was the bike locked (only frame or front wheel taken off and frame and both wheels locked)?
(3) What was it locked to?
(4) Was anything left behind (broken lock, links, or personal gear)?
(5) And lastly –and least important (since you are very unlikely to find it through a list or website anyway)– description of the stolen bike.
This has been a problem ever since social services in Portland were cut a few years back (can’t recall exactly when). Read more at Blog.ORbike.com.
Hello from Kryptonite everyone:
This is a great discussion. It’s just fabulous that you are all coming together to help piss of thieves in Portland!
Joel – you beat me to it – thanks for including the link to the proper lock up section on Kryptonite’s site!
However, please note that the information you got about our locks isn’t exactly true. The cyclinders in our locks are not the same as another company’s. Yes, we use a disc-style cylinder, which is the type of cylinder, but our insides aren’t the same. As for the number of discs, again, not the right info. Kryptonite does have locks with high disc counts in them, the New York series is a great example of that.
organic brian – heavy duty chains are a great way to deter thieves! Good for you! Anyone purchasing a chain should remember that the chain you choose should be designed for cut strength, not pull strength. There is a difference. Cut strength chains are the ones that require someone to cut both sides of the link to defeat the chain. This is the case with all of our high end chains, too.
One thing I’d point out to anyone who is thinking of purchasing a chain and switching the lock, this may void the anti-theft protection offer with the chain. You don’t want to do that, if you can help it. Find a chain with a lock that you like (we’ve got three versions!) and buy that and then sign up for the anti-theft protection offer. In most cases the first year is free. Take advantage of that, “just in case”!
I read through the link you suggested for the NY messengers. I read it a little differently. Yes, they prefer chains, but saying almost all u-locks can be cut with a 4′ bolt cutter isn’t necessarily a fair statement. It all would depend on the actual u-lock, the time the thief had, the effort he/she put into it, the leverage, the sharpness of the blade etc. Remember, if the bike is locked properly, there shouldn’t be too much room for the thief to work. And, for a little plug ’cause I can’t help myself…the New York Lock or the new ‘baby’ the New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock giggle at that tool. 🙂
What Jonathan has started here and what you all have done by joining the conversation is a great way to defeat thieves. People do not like to talk about security, as a general rule, because it is a negative topic and, most people think, “it won’t happen to me”. Education is huge in fighting crime. Every child on a bike should have a lock – whatever brand you are comfortable with – just get them in the habit of using a lock every single time they are away from their bike – even at home.
Locking properly is just about as important as what you lock with, too. Getting in the habit yourself and then teaching your friends who are new to cycling how to lock their bike and teaching kids…it’s all good. Awareness and Education. Thieves can’t beat that!
If you have any other questions, just let me know. I’ll try to be as non-brand specific as I can with this topic, but as you saw, sometimes I just can’t help myself! 😉
Happy, safe riding.
Not to be a stats wonk, but after reading through the posts I had the question of whether bike theft is getting to be more of a problem in Portland than it’s been in the past. I hadn’t looked at the Police Bureau bike theft stats on their database for a few years, so here’s what I found in the way of reported thefts (a lot doubtless go unreported).
year: # of thefts:
1996 – 1014
1997 – 1057
1998 – 972
1999 – 901
2000 – 901
2001 – 1136
2002 – 1307
2003 – 1527
2004 – 1182
2005 – 1322
The new millenium has been bad for bike theft, so far. Would be interesting to know how this compares to other property crime trends over the same time period.
The bike theft data is also sorted by neighborhood, & month. Here’s the link to the Police database, if anyone cares to research it:
Thanks everyone for your emails and comments. Keep them coming.
I’ve been contacted by a bike enthusiast/cop from southeast precinct and even a few web programmers who want to help.
Also I just talked with Beth Hamon at Citybikes and she’ll be joining us in the meeting next week. She has a ton of bike theft knowledge.
This is exciting and I can’t wait to put it all together! Stay tuned…
Let’s face it–we’ve been using an enforcement strategy for a while and it’s obviously not working. If it was, we would have seen a decrease or steady bike theft rate even in the midst of increasing poverty, unemployment and drug addiction. We are seeing the opposite.
Those stats are an important contribution to the discussion–we need to prevent the thefts. If it is coming largely due to the boom in meth use, then that means drug programs (targeted specifically at the next at-risk meth generation) and local economic development programs.
Of course, those are long-term goals and we can’t lose sight of the short term, which is largely enforcement and rehabilitation…
Are there any rehab programs in place to help prevent busted bike theives from continuing in the future? I don’t like the cycle of us losing bikes, losing money locking up the theif, then releasing the thief and losing more bikes, etc. We need to know why the thief became a thief in the first place and then intervene.
My big short-term “crack-down” suggestion (at the risk that some professional thieves are on this board reading this post…oh well): Have members of the bike community partner with an undercover bike theft unit from the Portland Police. They use their precious, shiny expensive bike as bait–leave it locked or unlocked in an enticing way in an enticing area under surveillance. Basically, this is creating decoys and attracting the thieves, while at the same time leaving the “real” bikes safer.
Maybe we could also commission a criminological study of the known/caught bike thieves to find out why they are/were bike thieves…create a bike theft profile and from there we can launch into prevention programs.
I’d be more than willing to help orchestrate this effort as a PSU student and cyclist…let me know.
Maybe those who see people with possibly stolen bikes would be willing to take photos? That might be a relatively easy starting point for identifying the people stealing the bikes?
I know! I know! How about whenever you see someone with what appears to be a stolen bike, you walk up to them and ask, “Hey man, is that a stolen bike?”
I had to walk from one end of PSU today to the other, and since I’d been thinking of this thread, I walked from bike to bike on the campus looking at locks (while not trying to seem too suspicious). Out of over 40 bicycles, I saw five locked up right with high quality U-Locks or lock/chain combos. The rest were cheap u-locks, cable locks, cheap chains/locks, and very few of those were locked up well.
It solidified my opinion that the first and the most effective thing that should be done is to educate bike owners about lock quality and strategies. I’d love to bust all the thieves and throw them into a pit of rabid badgers – or even get in touch with their inner-child and resolve the conflict that makes them such self-absorbed asshats – but I doubt without unlimited funds anyone will ever make much of a dent on the theft end of the problem. Is bike theft for most people’s sub $1000 retail bike even a felony?
How to do this? I vote for a 30 second Superbowl spot.
If we can’t come up with the money for TV, a small start would be to print out some two-sided flyers with “the facts” (theft risk, lock advice, lock up instructions) and have volunteers attach them to bicycles in high traffic areas with perhaps a coupon on them for discounts on a short list of well chosen locks. I’m sure there are plenty of other great ideas around to help educate people.
That said, I’m still for a permanent pillory in Pioneer Square for bike thieves.
That’s a good idea Russell. I might just post those flyers on the upcoming bike theft website so people can download and print them if they want.
Thanks everyone for your advice so far, keep them coming.
If you’re a believer of providing actual treatment for drug abuse as a form of crime prevention/reduction and are able, might I suggest a monetary donation to one of the several nonprofit agencies in the area that have specialized treatment models for meth addiction? One of the things the county ITAX funded was free drug treatment for poor people, usually meth addicts. When the money runs out in a few months and agencies have to stop treating the indigent, I wouldn’t be surprised if there won’t be more bicycle thieves in business.
Slate posted a bike lock review a couple days ago.
I am inexperienced with locks. Appreciate any comments on the following link:
I would agree with the quote you linked that I included below. I’ve always been able to find something to u-lock to since I rarely leave inner Portland. If that wasn’t the case, I’d buy a Fahgettaboudit Chain I think.
I have a Bulldog which I just stick in my back pocket for short trips. I use it when my bike is going to be in a public area for a short period of time. I use a NY Lock for longer/less public parking.
The only thing I’d add is to get rid of your quick release skewer on your front wheel if it’s worth much to you. If you lock you bike up the way Sheldon Brown recommends, your front wheel is at risk. The only bummer is the price on the Bulldog lock has gone up as it’s gotten popular.
MY SUGGESTIONS: If the crooks in your town use ONLY manual tools, and will never use power tools, buy the $24 OnGuard Bulldog Mini (or a larger Bulldog if your bike rack requires a larger lock). A compact lock provides less space for a crook to insert his tools, so buy the smallest version of the Bulldog that will fit around your rear wheel and your bike rack.
But, if you park on a “mega-sized urban college campus, or in a “high crime” area where Pro crooks have been known to power tools against targeted “high end” bikes, there is only one U-lock widely sold in the USA that really works: the Kryptonite New York 3000 Lock.
Bike theft is a terribly under reported crime. Most people don\’t bother because the hassle of reporting is high compared to the value of the bike lost. People also feel embarrised as if they are to blame for not locking it up securely enough, and said to say, a lot of bikes that are stolen were not locked.
To cut bike theft is simple, but you need a national policy to make it work.
a) All bike frames should get a VIN number stamped into them when made. It should encode the maker and a serial number. The makers or importers would have to apply for a manufacture number and then attach their serial number. It would be good if the number also appears as a bar code, like it does on most car VIN numbers.
b) A national database where you can register your bike against the VIN or serial number issued. You should register before it is stolen.
c) When a bike is stolen it is flagged in the national registry as stolen along with the police department and report number.
d) All bike shops, porn shops, bike dealers or others handling bikes would be required to check all bikes coming through their hands against the online database of stolen bikes.
e) Any store clerk or kid who finds a stolen bike would get a cash reward. Lets make it $50. Got to provide incentives in the system.
f) A law that prohibits export of used bicycles or cars unless a police officer has inspected the unit and checked the number and registration.
Just think how many 13 year old kids would be walking around the town, trying to score $50 by using a hand held to check bike numbers against the stolen bike list.
If it is not national it fails.
We have the technology. We have the ability. Do we have the will?
Bike repair shops could also check the registration database when repairing or purchasing a used bike. If the clammed owner is not the registered owner it may be cause for suspicion.
This may place more burden on the manufactures and bike sellers but the benefits would be reduced bike crime so people would be more likely to invest in bikes or spend more money on a bike. So for a little effort they could improve the bike market.
We have a terrible problem because containers that my otherwise be shipped back overseas empty are often filled with used bicycles. Even when inspected there is no way for an officer to easily find out if they have been stolen. Have you noticed you almost never ever see your stolen bike again, and it\’s not like you are not on the lookout for it. Until you have a national system in place where the feds can check on the containers of used bikes being exported you have not shut off the drain.
We need to lead the world in this. Europe would sign on too. You could easily have an international bike registry system. I think it may cause such good will, and cost so little to actually run the data bank, that an international sponsor like Google could be found.
(For security the bike vin numbers should not be sequential, but have gaps in the numbering and a small random string added at the end. The manufactures would be encouraged, and later required to upload a list of valid VINs that they had issued. This list would be kept secret, and used by the system to identify forged numbers.)
Bike resellers would be encouraged to do online bike registration at the time of sale. This would provide later proof of ownership. It may also be a good idea to consider the ability to include a photo of the bike. This would have several benefits, including solving the problem of registering existing bikes: When several existing bikes (Pre VIN), from different manufactures have the same serial number it would be easy to display a photo list of the matching units so as to identify the one in question.
A system like this would kill the secondary market, reduce theft, and people might actually get there bikes back instead of the police having monthly bikes sales at the impound lot. Most are sold because they have no way to trace the rightful owner.
Before moving to Portland the city I lived in did have a bike registry and bikes were licensed for a 5.00 fee, (18yrs ago.) Fees were used to aid in theft prevention and bike safety training.
So, why can\’t it be done here? I think a bright sticker with a police issued number should give pause to the most casual type of thieves.
Not all bike thefts are by the meth heads and homeless. A few years ago I\’d put my new Cannondale on the roof rack to leave on a Mtn bike trip. While inside getting last minute items a couple Reed college students cut the cable locks and brake cables, the last I saw of my bike frame was as they raced down the street and around the corner. Even with good descriptions of the young men nothing was ever turned up.
I have tried a new lock which I like because of the strength it has. It\’s called Squire, http://www.squireusacyclelocks.com and I believe their locking system is superior. No more theft here.
This is in response to Jon\’s post dated 9/14/07…just wondering which Squire lock you had purchased? Please let me know and look forward to hearing more.
Thanks and happy new year!