Bike thieves, interrupted

Posted by on October 30th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Here are two tales of bike thefts that didn’t go quite as planned.

The first, sent in by a reader named Armando, comes from an all-too familiar spot — the loggia of the Portland Building. Here’s a photo of the suspect:

A pensive, pre-pilfering look.

I’ve covered theft in this location two times before (here and here).

This time, according to security officials at the Portland Building, the man above was attempting to steal a bike light last Friday (10/24). When confronted by security, he ran off — leaving both the light and his own bike behind (don’t feel bad, it probably wasn’t really his).

This next one is so brazen it’s funny. A reader named Arne sent me this cell phone photo:

Excuse me sir, are those wire cutters?

Arne’s email said he/she “thought this picture was too awesome not to share”. Apparently this guy was working through a 3/4-inch cable lock with wire cutters in broad daylight in front of the Downtown Library.

“Since I happen to sympathize with bike owners more than people stealing them, I had to interrupt”.

“Since I happen to sympathize with bike owners more than people stealing them,” Arne wrote, “I had to interrupt”. Arne reports that once the thief noticed someone had snapped a clear picture of his face (from a safe distance of course), he stopped.

And the would-be victim? He came out of the library, was told what happened, and rode directly to a shop to buy a U-lock.

[Update: By the way, does anyone else think these two perps might in fact be the same guy?]

These stories are are kind of funny, but losing your bike to a thief is anything but. I realize the Stolen Bike Listings here on BikePortland.org have been broken for nearly a year now (you can still list your bike on Finetoothcog.com, but it doesn’t appear on BikePortland), but they’ll be up and running very soon (trust me!).

I’ll also have some very exciting news to report soon from the Portland Police Bureau. I had a great meeting with Sergeant Troy King from their property crimes unit yesterday. They’re finally rolling out an electronic theft reporting system (it’s in beta right now; report and screenshots coming soon) that will lead to many more bikes being recovered.

We also talked about a potential new “Bike Theft Detective” volunteer program. It’s just a brainstorm idea at this point, but stay tuned for more on that and other bike theft news.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Paul Tay
Guest

Bike Lo-Jac, anyone?

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
Guest
Steve Hoyt-McBeth

Bravo to the security staff at the Portland Building, Armando and Arne.

It looks like the same suspect in both photos, no? Same haircut and facial hair.

mmann
Guest

Glad to hear the PPB is more interested in pursuing bike theft. We all know it’s rampant here, and a faltering economy is only going to make it worse. But the solutions to reduction and to catching the thieves – and more importantly, the folks who fence stolen bikes – is really just a matter of making it a priority and doing basic detective work. This story in the Oregonian is heartening.
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1225248913281430.xml&coll=7
I especially like the part about the officer who’s also a cyclist being excited to put the thief out of action. I would hope a $300 schwinn would get the same attention the 3K Cervelo got.

Zaphod
Guest
Zaphod

Every time a thief is caught, an angel gets its wings.

Bike shops really should warn customers that cable locks are really low security devices. This may come across as an “up sell” but it should still be done.

Stacy Westbrook
Guest

Cable locks are the worst! I had my bike locked up to a sign post around the corner from Roots Brewing last year and the bike was stolen in broad daylight. I can’t believe people actually walk around with cable cutters and *nobody notices*.

Cable locks should only be used as a secondary security measure, not as your sole lock. I agree with Zaphod, bike shops should warn people about them. Saving $20 sounds good, but what happens when you lose your $500 bike forever?

red hippie
Guest
red hippie

Instead of costly court proceedings and a slap on the wrist, they should bring back the stocks. You could set them up at the end of the Hawthorne bridge and cyclists would be permitted to throw rotten fruit or squirt the offendee with their water bottles as they ride by. In winter, snow balls.

BF
Guest
BF

Steve Hoyt-McBeth is right. That’s the same suspect in both pictures. Someone should interview him next time.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Simply amazing. Considering there’s so many people coming in and out much of the time, I’ve always been surprised that people could lose bikes right in front of Central Library, but that pic is convincing. I’m remembering the sad tale of a bike tourer that lost his Trek Portland right in front of Central last year.

I see so many fine bikes locked up with cables on downtown streets, there for the taking. There’s someone up on Jefferson that’s been doing this for quite awhile and hasn’t lost their bike yet…

John Lascurettes
Guest

It’s expensive, but I love this lock, so simple to use and tough to break:

http://clevercycles.com/store/?product=LBFRAME

and the accompanying plug-in chain (you could also use a generic chain) makes it super easy to lock my front wheel too.

Like someone else pointed out, spend the dough on a good lock to protect the dough you spent on the bike!

chuck
Guest
chuck

Man, am I looking forward to having the Stolen Bike section fixed. Emily’s hand painted yellow cilo was stolen from the Chevron at NE Fremont and MLK on Tuesday night. she’s posted on finetootcog, and craigslist, and filed a police report. It’s got a big front basked, porter bars with blue track grips, and “Ride Fast, Die Pretty” and “Emily B Wings” painted in cursive on the top tube. If anyone happens to run across it, please let us know.

vocodex [at] gmail.com

joel
Guest

john #9 you have GOT to be kidding.

my euro bike messenger friends know all about those locks – they are about as unsecure as can be. absolutely NOT a secure locking system. i do not understand why anyone would bother with these unless their heart was set on preserving the aesthetic of their dutch or danish city bike. besides the ease of breaking them, a thief can just pick your bike up, and walk away.

theres a different version of those wheel locks out there, that looks like a mini-u-lock that bolts onto your seatstays, with a bar that swings down and open – those are better than the one shown, but stiil…

seriously. spend the money. get a good u-lock, and, ideally, a cable to run through the rest of things. the bigger a mess you can make out of it, the better. theives are looking for the easy job.

Moo
Guest
Moo

Unfortunately, no lock is exempt from a thief who really wants to cut through it. Just need to make your bike more time consuming and task challenged to take, rather than to just cut one lock and go.

joe
Guest
joe

it would be interesting to see the stats regarding bike theft policing from the PPB.
(jonathan, if you know where we can find this info, please share)

how many people have been arrested for committing the crime?
how many arrests have been made for fencing/trafficking in stolen goods?
how many reports do they receive about stolen bikes?

I am on the fence on this one because, realistically, this probably should be a low priority for ppb. it is nonviolent and small $$. granted, I have had 6 bikes stolen(total cost about $3000) from me since 1996. but, from a social perspective, it is hard to argue that the cops should spend much time on this. what do you think?

Paul Tay
Guest

New bike theft deterrent idea: Fill the tubes of a nicely painted POS with C-4; Connect detonator to cellphone; Leave it UN-locked somewhere; Wait for perp; Make THE call!

bobcycle
Guest
bobcycle

“I can’t believe people actually walk around with cable cutters and *nobody notices*.” check out this you tube video…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TNTq3nhuh0

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

This is pretty much reiterating what has already been stated but… U-Locks people! Seriously. I work at a bike shop and have helped way too many people buy a new bike after having theirs stolen. I always ask them how they secured their bike when it was stolen. 9 out of 10 times it was with a cable lock. Yes U-Locks are a little bit heavier/more expensive than a cable lock, but protecting your bike is always worth it.

sarah
Guest
sarah

Yeah, mine is a cautionary tale — my son, who works at Bike N’ Hike on Grand warned me when he got me my new bike 2 weeks ago to always use a u-lock and the cable. Well, Monday night – Oct. 27 – outside the Education Bldg. at PSU, I was late for an exam and wrapped the cable around the wheels and didn’t use the u-lock. Came out and my new $500 bike was gone. What a fool I was and now I’m awake to the fact that there are people cruising around all the time looking for bikes to steal…I miss my new bike…

sarah
Guest
sarah

One question: is it worth telling the PSU police or posting anything online about it — or is my bike long gone and I’ll never see it again?

zilfondel
Guest
zilfondel

This is the bike lock I bought (REI carries it):

http://www.onguardlock.com/lockviewer.php?type=ulock&model=5001

Probably the toughest lock out there – extreme duty U-lock that is practically indestructible. REI said that 42″ bolt cutters won’t even dent it, and an angle grinder takes about 45 minutes to saw through the steel. Don’t even try picking the lock, either.

Came with a $5,000 insurance policy if my bike is stolen.

cable locks are a total joke. With a proper U-lock, you should be able to lock your bike up overnight downtown with no fear of it being stolen.

This is the sheldon brown article on how to lock your bike:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/lock-strategy.html

travis wiggins
Guest

i was playin pinball at ground kontrol a couple months ago before work and i came outside to a completely tweaked out, mustachioed dude with the same red face trying to take my wheels off. as i shoo’d him away i felt like had turned on the kitchen light and watched him run away like a roach. best part is… he ran smack dab into a security guard (or cop maybe???) on a bike!!! hahahahahahaha credit for a stick-to-it attitude (regarding the meth and the bike thievery)

travis wiggins
Guest

i was playin pinball at ground kontrol a couple months ago before work and i came outside to a completely tweaked out, mustachioed dude with the same red face trying to take my wheels off. as i shoo’d him away i felt like had turned on the kitchen light and watched him run away like a roach. best part is… he ran smack dab into a security guard (or cop maybe???) on a bike!!! hahahahahahaha credit for a stick-to-it attitude (regarding the meth and the bike thievery).

E
Guest
E

Sarah, file a police report. Post away, it can’t hurt. If you have the serial number, you CAN get your bike back.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

since we all know what that dude looks like i say next time someone beats the crap outta him!

velo
Guest
velo

Keep the pictures coming people. We should start putting up wanted posters around town at shops and other bike heavy locations. Lets keep these slim bags on the run and get them in jail where they belong. In a moment of gutsy indignation I did walk up to someone in down town and bust out the “Nice bolt cutters, we are watching you” line. The guy was a touch taken aback.

Lets make an active effort to make it clear to thieves that we are watching out for each other and we will do out best to make sure they are identified.

beth h
Guest

Speaking from experience, it is VERY hard to sell a 22-dollar U-lock (the cheapest we sell) when there’s a 10-dollar cable hanging just below it on the slatwall.

Do we stop selling the cable altogether? Not in our neighborhood; there are too many truly, desperately poor people here who need a lock and cannot possibly afford the U-lock. Cable locks are for the truly poor who cannot afford anything else. (Having that cable is better — perhaps only a little, but still better — than having no lock at all.)

Cable locks offer the least possible protection for a bicycle. That’s why we display them well below eye-level and deemphasize them to the majority of our customers who can afford a better lock.

Lots of folks who buy the cable probably can afford the U-lock, but don’t want to deal with the weight, or the odd shape, or whatever else they cite as an inconvenience.

The way I see it, getting your bike jacked is the height of inconvenience. If you value your bike you need to buy the very best lock you can afford — none is as costly as a new bicycle. It’s that simple.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Wanted posters are a great idea.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Moo’s right. That’s why I use three locks including a u-lock and chain. I like the idea of putting up wanted posters.

Krampus
Guest
Krampus

This may sound goofy, but would there be any way to put through a bill that would require bike shop employees to inform anyone purchasing a bike that a u-lock is far more secure than a cable lock? That way the shop employee they could cite the law as proof it’s not an attempt to “up sell” the customer to a more expensive lock but just common sense to a possible new cyclist who thinks cable locks are just fine. When I first started riding I thought cables were 100% safe since I saw so many other bikes locked up with them. It wasn’t long after that I realized locking your bike up with a cable lock is about as safe as locking it up with dental floss.

zilfondel
Guest
zilfondel

^ Just out of curiousity, why would you possibly need three locks? One should do it if you have the right one.

Or else… stop riding that $15,000 road bike? Kind of defeats the purpose to have an expensive lightweight bicycle if your locks weigh as much as you do!

Kronda
Guest

mmann #3: That is a heartening story–except for the part about letting some total stranger ride off unsupervised with your $6000 bike. Naive much?

I’m selling a $300 bike and if someone wants to test ride it, I go with them. It’s a sad fact, but most strangers can’t be trusted.

tiga
Guest
tiga

I’ve been wanting to leave a few cheap bikes unlocked downtown with the brakes somehow defeated. Just open up the quick releases, cut the cables, take off the break pads… Or would that be an awful thing to do?

LBS employee
Guest
LBS employee

re: Krampus (#28) – While I agree with your motivation, I don’t think legislation is the correct use of resources for this type of issue.

Every single bike shop employee in this city knows that a u-lock is exponentially more secure than a cable lock. If they aren’t able to help a customer come to the same conclusion, they simply aren’t doing their job.

todd boulanger
Guest

Yes U locks and hardened chains are the best ‘solo’ theft blocker for the individual…but at what point does it become ‘silly’ as a community when the tool (lock) weights almost as much a the item being protected?

There is a system of City sponsored and guarded parking garages ($20,000 to $50,000 per space!), but much less service and security for bicyclists…

A system of smart card lockers (www.bikelink.org) and guarded bikestations (www.bikestation.org) would allow a higher measure of security for either those with pricey rides or the working poor who might only be able to afford the free valet parking or pay as you go smart parking locker.

LBS employee
Guest
LBS employee

yikes!! My comment was not meant to be an attack at Beth – I hope I didn’t come off that way.

I have plenty of customers who simply won’t put the money down for a u-lock, but I do my best to make sure that they are at least informed about the better choices.

TS
Guest
TS

The idea of a low-jack system for bikes is pretty interesting to me. There are only two issues to resolve: 1) battery power and 2) where to put the tracking device?

The device would probably have to be about the size of a small cell phone, and obviously you wouldn’t want it to be obvious enough that a would-be thief would just see it and throw it away.

If I could slap something like this together, how much would you pay for it? There would probably have to be two costs — one for the device itself, and then a subscription to the locator service.

b
Guest

i see people chilling with stolen bike all the time in SE by 12th and stark at the park and downtown at the brick park by the foodcarts. go look there if your bike got stolen

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

Put the low-jack device inside the seat post tube. Use rechargeable batteries with a plug in the tube. I’m not sure how you figure out if the batteries are getting low.

KWW
Guest
KWW

Where’s a gun when you need one…..