Portland among top five worst cities for bike theft

Posted by on May 27th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

how not to lock your bike

How not to lock your bike.
(All photos © J. Maus)

Portland is tied for the fifth spot on Kryptonite’s latest list of the Top 10 Worst Cities for Bike Theft.

The results are from 2007 and they were posted to the Kryptonite blog today. Joining Portland in the top five are Philadephia, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and Tucson.

According to Kryptonite spokeswoman Donna Tocci, the list is compiled by proprietary data with “input from regional managers, hundreds of bike shop visits, input from colleges and universities, customer service interactions and data from police in various cities.”

In 2006, Portland was tied for ninth place on the list, so things appear to be getting worse.

bike theft

Heavy duty chain link
is also a good deterrent.

There has been a lot of stolen bike activity in North and Northeast Portland recently.

Last week, Gabriel Tiller and his friend got their bikes stolen. When he got a tip from a friend about the bikes being in the area around Jefferson High School and Portland Community College on NE Killingsworth Ave, a call for action was put out on local email lists and a posse of 15 showed up to look for the bikes. A few hours later (with help from the Portland Police Bureau) three bikes had been recovered — but several others are still missing.

With summer approaching, bike theft season is likely to heat up.

Robert Pickett is a Neighborhood Response Team officer with the Portland Police Bureau who reviews police reports by patrol officers from inner southeast neighborhoods like Buckman, Sunnyside, Kerns, Laurelhurst and others.

“Recording the serial number is the key factor in increasing chances of recovering the bicycle later.”
Portland Police officer Robert Pickett

He said he’s “been struck by similarities” in reports of bikes stolen from porches over the past few months. Pickett says the theft victims were all surprised at their bike’s disappearance and he noted that all the bikes were locked with only cable locks (some weren’t locked at all).

“I know many people don’t have garages in which to store their bikes,” advises Pickett, “but the next best thing is definitely a U-lock, and back yards and porches are better th an front, but still not completely safe.”

Pickett also strongly recommends that people record their bike’s serial number, noting that it’s “the key factor in increasing chances of recovering the bicycle later.”

If you want to keep your bike, make sure it’s always locked with a U-lock and review some important bike theft information here. (Note: The BikePortland.org/Finetoothcog Stolen Bike Listings are currently down. Hope to have them up and running again soon.)

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no one in particular
Guest

Also joining Portland in the top 5 (which was actually a top 6 because of a tie) is San Francisco.

itripn
Guest
itripn

This weekend, I decided I am going to somehow obtain a couple of staple racks to attach to my garage floor so that I can lock our family bikes up securely.

We\’ve never had an issue (in NoPo), even having accidentally left our garage door open for a few hours multiple times. But it seems to be on the rise. And with a high home owners insurance deductible, any theft will leave a hole in our pocket.

Are there other secure home lockup solutions people have discovered?

Ryan
Guest

Are thieves picking krypto locks, or do most of these cases involve thieves taking advantage of poorly locked bikes?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

\”Are thieves picking krypto locks, or do most of these cases involve thieves taking advantage of poorly locked bikes?\”

Ryan,

the vast majority (probably over 95%) of bikes stolen are either 1) they are momentarily unlocked (like in a backyard) or 2) they are locked with a cable.

Cable locks are useless.

Vance
Guest

Probably because of the source of the stats that it isn\’t mentioned, but a good lock isn\’t always a solution. With the proliferation, nationwide really, of used bicycle, and used bicycle-parts, retail stores, and online auctions, comes the rise in theft. Do second-hand-bikey businesses still have to get a Pawn-brokers\’ licensing in Portland, and comply with all that police-stuff? I did, and it was simply cost-prohibitive to sell used stuff as a result. Makes me wonder if that has changed.

Historically, bikes have enjoyed a protected status simply because there was never anywhere to fence stolen goods. That\’s changed for the better, IMO, and I\’m glad to see people getting into used stuff. But just because Portland is gifted with a body of businesses that operate with integrity, doesn\’t mean that all cities are so lucky. Parts may not get fenced here, but the sheer number of bikes must be tempting to thieves.

I bring this up, because when you lock your bike, you\’re thinking that you want the whole thing there when you get back. A lost wheel, or saddle, is far better than losing the whole ride. Hence the great advice you offer about U-locks, J.

There is a growing trend though, where thieves are after the parts on the bike, and not just the bike per-say. As such, thieves have no qualms about taking a hack-saw, or tubing cutter to a spendy frame, just to get the parts, the demand for which is growing astonishingly fast. An aluminum frame bicycle can be cut twice with either tool, in a matter of seconds, and almost silently. Carbon-fiber even quicker. Ti and steel are slower, and make more noise. Don\’t even get me started on battery powered high-speed die-grinders, like a Dremel tool, equipped with a friction-blade.

No lock in the world is going to stop a thief after your groupo. Trashing a $2000 bike for one part, is totally within the scope of the demented ass who can sell a set of brakes for $50 at any shop in town. I keep my bike within my line of sight at all times anymore. Especially after having one stolen in Denver recently, while I stood ten feet away. Cutting a frame up is SOP for thieves there.

Vance
Guest

Oh, and itripn #2. FYI, it\’s an unlikely source, but muffler shops usually possess the requisite die-and-mandrel set up to make those for ya. They can weld the install flanges on too. You might draw up a set of plans and do a little canvassing. I don\’t know if there is an actual manufacturer, but I\’d bet you could talk a muffler shop into that no prob. Prolly cheaper than you could buy \’em, given they aren\’t available retail.

itripn
Guest
itripn

Thanks Vance. I found a few sources on the web, and they generally run from $80 to $300 a piece, so your suggestion is a good one.

Allison
Guest
Allison

Are these numbers per bicycle or absolute? Because if we\’ve got more bicycles out there, there\’s going to be more stolen. It might be more a function of bicycling\’s popularity rather than because we\’ve got a particularly evil crop of thieves.

I am curious to note what kind of measures are effective against bicycle thieves.

My practices (tell me if you think they help/hurt/are a waste of time)

>bicycle lives in the garage (car\’s in the driveway – it\’s actually *been* stolen, but the man of the house would never give up his bicycle stable).

>Parked with other bicycles if possible

>\”Official\” bike parking (stuff that\’s designed to have bicycles parked on it)

>If out in public, in front of a lot of people rather than hidden (you *can* break my lock, but it takes the use of tools and the hope is that if it\’s in a well travelled area someone will say – HEY! Are you stealing that bike?\” Or at least the thief might think someone might.

>Always lock the frame, if possible lock a wheel.

>Saddle permanently cabled to the bike with the (extra) cable lock.

>If isolated and locking it for more than about 5 hours, u-lock plus cable lock just to be annoying.

Is anyone worried about components being stolen? Cyclometer/lights/saddle/wheels?

Allison
Guest
Allison

I know people have started doing financing for bicycle purchases – I wonder if they\’ll do comprehensive insurance for a stolen bicycles…I know my home owners insurance covers them in the garage – but what about elsewhere?

itripn
Guest
itripn

Allison, although your home owners covers them in the garage (and likely out and about, as most policies cover a certain amount of your stuff even when not at the house) — check your deductible. Mine is above what most of our bikes are worth.

As far as your precautions — as Jonathan says, cable locks are useless, and not really even annoying. They can be cut quickly and silently with a $20 pair of cable cutters.

I believe the latest U-Locks and Handcuff locks are the only real deterrents to theft, but as you know, unless you carry 3 or more U-Locks, it\’s hard to protect your whole bike.

Personally, I remove all easily removable stuff from my bike — lights, pumps, computers, etc.

Your other precautions seem prudent and more or less effective depending on the determination of the thief.

CPM
Guest

Uh yea…. Someone ganked my LOCKED bike in the middle of the day in the middle of PSU campus.

WTF ppl.

danny
Guest
danny

Why did you have to use Jefferson in your entry. You could have used countless other landmarks (ie PCC) but you had to out the black high school that gets enough bad press as it is. Insidious is the word that comes to mind.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

\”Why did you have to use Jefferson in your entry.\”

danny,

thanks. I understand your concerns. I actually had PCC first but decided, after reading Jefferson referred to in an account of the bikes being stolen by Gabe Tiller, to change it to Jefferson.

I felt it would be more well-known of a landmark than PCC. no harm was meant. trust me. that\’s my neighborhood too!

I have gone back and added a bit more to that sentence.

thanks for the feedback.

Roger Geller
Guest
Roger Geller

itripn #2:

Years ago a bike shop owner suggested locking to a thick eye bolt sunk low into a stud in the garage. To steal the bike the thief would either have to: break the krypto lock or snap the eye bolt. They can\’t unscrew the eye bolt because the bike prevents turning the bolt.

I\’ve done that ever since having an unlocked bike stolen from my garage…

gabriel amadeus
Guest

Yeah, 2 of the 3 bikes we recovered were actually found within 100 feet of the school. Thanks for the eyes everyone! We actually recovered rev phil\’s surly last night thanks to a couple of eagle-eyed shift listers!

ericbuilds
Guest

does anyone here know where i can buy the heavy hardened chain that kryptonite uses in some their products. i\’ve heard that there is a rigging store in town that sells it by the foot for less than kryptonite. and what is it called? thanks.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Pitlock locking wheel skewers and Abus U-Locks are what I use.

Russ
Guest
Russ

Keeping your commuter from getting ripped off is pretty simple. Go with a sub 105/Deore XT group,

Russ
Guest
Russ

Trying again, maybe I ranted too much?

Keeping your commuter from getting ripped off is pretty simple. Go with a sub 105/Deore XT group, something less than a 7005 aluminum frame, and good but not great wheels/seat. Lock the bike up right with a U-lock to something sturdy around other bikes and foot traffic, and keep it indoors when you get home. Then you aren’t posting on the Fine Tooth Cog some day after taking the bus home from work with your bike bag in your lap and your helmet in your hand.

The problem is most people don’t learn these lessons until they have that experience. It’s partially the victim’s fault. If you live in a city, you should know better than to leave a poorly locked or unlocked bike on your porch all night, etc. The best defense for those with good locks, knowledge, and a mid-range bike is parking it near a badly locked newer bike with higher end parts.

Some of the blame also falls to bike shops not educating customers. That part is odd, considering that you can get some “fear of God” up-sales on locks and helmets with a new bike purchase with just a little “education” on brain cage safety and theft. I’ve seen sales people at Bike Gallery walk someone over to the lock section, leave, and not offer them any advice even after that person just spent several hundred bucks on a new bike. No noobie commuter should walk out of a bike shop with their new 7.6 FX and a dream of riding to work with only a cable lock unless they heard a very stern warning from the salesperson before deciding to throw away the $1100 they just spent. Hell, I think bike shops that don’t sell Huffy or Magna also shouldn’t sell cable locks anyway. Why sell garbage locks if you don’t sell garbage bikes?

I commute on a dinged up ‘cross bike with a functional component set. I have good wheels that aren’t gonna resell for much with the quick-release removed from the front wheel, a good fitting seat that ain’t nothing close to a Brooks or Fizik, and a heavy duty U lock that is short enough to fit in my back pocket and is harder to get a cutting tool at. I lock the back wheel through the back triangle and leave. The bikes is not gonna get ripped off, and if some day someone with tools actually wants take it, oh well. $60 gets me a new front wheel, and $300-400 gets me a new (used) bike. The bike I use for longer rides can’t get replaced so easily and stays locked up even in my house. I’d love to, but I don’t use it to commute to work, to the store, and definitely not to the bar at ungodly o’clock AM.

It’s a matter of assessing risk and then only risking what you are willing to lose. The main issue is people having the information they need to make the assessment. From looking at how people lock up their bikes around town, and then knowing how much information is out there if someone bothers to look for it, I’d say most people don’t really care much until their bike is gone and it’s too late.

Donna
Guest
Donna

Yeah, and when will a PDX bike shop start selling Abus locks? I\’d certainly buy one…

Todd B
Guest
Todd B

Yes in all the places I have lived in the world…the Portland/Vancouver metro area is the worse for theft of small bike accessories (lights, saddle bags, etc.)…in my experience. For now using dynamo lighting seems to minimize theft of lights…but this cannot last forever.

An untapped market for good bike parking are the old centrally located multifamily apartment houses (all without parking garages)…it would be nice if the city started working to install (or incentivize) protected mini bike garages in the on street parking lanes (bike parking meter cages). http://www.bikelink.org

In the Netherlands … when you buy a new bike you have the choice of buying bike insurance and a recovery/ security chip (like what we use for pets).

Their government has started to police the sale of used stolen bikes…to reduce the demand for hot bikes (ease of sale and folks buying a hot bike to replace a stolen bike).

Todd B
Guest
Todd B

Oh and sadly another growth area for bike theft must be bikes on transit…especially on low floor buses…the design of these buses makes it tougher to keep and eye on ones bike.

So do not forget to lock your nice bike when on the bus or MAX.

Todd B
Guest
Todd B

And new riders…remember to check how solid the post or sign pole you are locking too…avoid sucker poles (those with missing bolts or loose nuts/ bolts, etc.).

scoot
Guest
scoot

I lock my bike Sheldon Brown (RIP) styley – small u-lock around the back wheel inside the back triangle. But I\’ve always been afraid to put my bike on the bus. I could use my wheel lock so thieves would have to carry the bike if they took it, but otherwise how do you protect your bike?

Bryan Hance (new PDX resident!)
Guest

I\’m seeing a huge spike on stolenbicycleregistry.com, too. Spring\’s always busy, but not like this one. I had4 to 8 this time of last year, now I\’m seeing 12 to 18 daily. Depressing.

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

Recording serial numbers and reporting it to the police if your bike is stolen is also huge. Our property room processes 1200 bicycles every year, and every single one has its serial number checked with a state-wide database of stolen bikes. They get far too few hits.

I also have a digital photo of my bikes. If they are stolen, I can put the photo up on finetoothcog.

David Feldman
Guest
David Feldman

Ride an old-looking road bike (damaged paint, downtube shifters, mismatched parts) in town. Use a good U-lock. Like helmets, no locks are expensive.
And I think that a road bike that looks unfashionable is a less likely target than any other bike. It might be that disc brake rotors and shock absorbers catch the \”magpie\” eyes of thieves.

Richard S
Guest
Richard S

Unfortuantely, the photo / serial numbers (which I have for all my bikes) don\’t work so well when components are stolen.

For times when we\’d need to leave a bike locked up out of site in a risky place (read almost anywhere in Portland), we either walk, drive or take TriMet.

I\’d also support using both a Ulock and a cable lock. That means that the thief needs to carry two different types of tool. Some will of course, but many won\’t.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Russ #19,

You\’re giving the thieves far too much credit. Rarely do these thefts involve people who know what the heck they\’re even looking at.

They steal it if they can. It doesn\’t matter if it\’s a total POS.

Cheaper bikes can be better though simply because it hurts (financially) less when they get ripped off.

Working in shops, I can\’t even tell you the number of times theft victims would remark that their bike was a piece of cr*p.

U-locks, U-locks, U-lock, or those heavy duty Krypto/Abus style chains. As Jonathan said, cables are useless. Simply a waste of your time and money. Stop buying them.

And get the smallest U-lock that will work for you. Thieves use the empty space in the lock to insert a scissor jack or some other tool.

If your bike is the best locked up bike in the vicinity, more often than not, the thieves will move on to easier pickins.

Zaphod
Guest

Good tips on the unbolted sign poles!

I\’m amazed at how many quick release wheels are left exposed. There are three good options in descending order of security
1) Run the U-Lock through them
2) Use (buy) aftermarket locking skewers that require a special drilled hex key. The part on the bike has a protruding bit the makes it impossible to get a standard tool in there. Sure these can be defeated but you are pretty safe here.
3) Use aftermarket locking skewers that use a regular hex key.

While I don\’t know this, I have to believe that if your bike looks ratty while a nearby bike looks shiney and fresh, yours will be in relative safety assuming similar locks.

While my Surly is well maintained, only the drivetrain is clean. It looks so plain and dirty when it turns out to be a pretty nice ride. I think he rust/baked bean color paint also helps. The wheels bolt on (no QR\’s) so my wheel theft risk is minimized. Plus, when parking isn\’t tight, the U lock goes through the front wheel and frame.

KT
Guest
KT

My bikes live inside my house– with a big, territorial, toothy, loud dog who is very protective of me.

(Note: I live and work in the Tigard area; I don\’t have any stats on stolen bikes in the SW suburbs.)

When I ride to work, my bike gets to hang out in my office with me.

When I ride elsewhere, we use multiple locks, around sturdy permanent structures. We don\’t ride our \”good\” bikes in Portland. We don\’t leave our \”good\” bikes out of our sight.

Items like bike computers, lights, etc we usually take off the bikes and take with us when we have to leave bikes locked somewhere. Paranoid? Yup, and I\’ve still got all my accessories.

My serial numbers are recorded and pictures taken, too.

E
Guest
E

My brand-new shiny pretty but otherwise cheap crappy beach cruiser (from Fred Meyer) was stolen out of my back yard when I first moved into my house in NoPo. My decent quality but old, dirty, beat-up, ugly mountain bike was standing right there, but the thief left it behind.

AND I got the cruiser back a year later – I had reported the theft, with serial number, and the police were able to find me when the bike came through the system.

😀

I sold the crappy cruiser and bought a decent commuter, well uglified with stickers and paint (and now dirt). It lives with the mountain bike in the locked garage. At work it lives, locked up, in the building\’s locked garage. I only street-park it for short periods in high-visibility areas with other bikes. When I\’m on the bus for a long distance or late at night, I\’ll lock the wheel to the frame – at least if they have to carry the bike I can chase them. (I may look pretty but really I\’m big & mean.) On MAX I sometimes lock it to the MAX – otherwise I keep a close eye on it.

I know I\’m not 100% safe, but every little bit helps.

Tankagnolo Bob
Guest
Tankagnolo Bob

I have a few bikes, most I value and keep in my sight, even when locked outside of a coffee shop or restarant.

I have one bike that has little value that I use to go to a movie or big outdoor event where theives would be waiting for a chance to snatch a nice ride.

My bikes in my garage are locked with a looong cable. I figure someone who breaks into my house looking for laptops etc, probably will not have cable cutters with them, so a cable lock in the garage is more for the time I forget to lock up the place. On the street, I always use a U-lock with a cable through the wheels and a small cable through the Brooks saddle.

eli bishop
Guest
eli bishop

this is one of my big fears as a new bicyclist: i LOVE my bike: it\’s pretty unusual, but it -is- shiny and gets noticed. i really like the ease of cable locks (esp. combinations!), but the theft rate here has convinced me to buy a ulock. thanks to previous tips on this site i\’ve also recorded my serial number and i already have pictures. but if she disappears i\’ll still be crushed!

Todd B
Guest
Todd B

Hi Eli,

Welcome to bicycling.

Remember to avoid some of the older u lock designs that use a cylinder key and do not have a secure locking mechanism for BOTH ends of the U.

And consider a balance between too big and too heavy vs. not always carrying it. You can also get a second lock and leave it at the rack you use the most (work, etc.), so you do not have to carry all that weight – especially if your locks weigh more than your bike. 😉

eli bishop
Guest
eli bishop

thanks, todd! i\’m hoping \”pink\” is also a deterrent. 🙂

mcark
Guest
mcark

Bikes aren\’t stolen in the south because we don\’t have THEM! I think this survey is flawed

Russ
Guest
Russ

This reminds me of a joke I heard a couple years ago at PSU:

Q: What are kids all over SE Portland getting for Christmas this year?

A: Your bike!

caesar
Guest
caesar

Nice article. I lived in Portland for several years and got 3 bikes stolen. My best advice is NOT to buy cheap lock everr!!!

Getting a kriptonite bike definitely helps. Several online sites have them but I would go with http://www.bike-locks.com

I live in Austin, TX and unfortunately many friends get their bikes stolen here as well.