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Police offer reward for ‘window pane bandit’ who has hit several bike shops

Posted by on November 8th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Sneak peek at West End Bikes-24

West End Bikes on SW Stark
and 11th is one of several shops
that has been broken into
this past week.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A thief who has (nearly) mastered the ability to remove large windows without breaking them has hit several bike shops and other businesses in the past week.

A total of six businesses (including three bike shops and one bike rack store) have been burglarized since November 1st by what police feel is the same criminal. Two bicycles stolen from windows have since been recovered (officers found them being ridden by people at the site of Occupy Portland) and now Crime Stoppers of Oregon is offering a $1,000 reward to catch the suspect who’s responsible for the string of thefts.

In each of the incidents, the suspect expertly removed a large window without smashing it (or at least trying to not smash it).

Jay Torborg, co-owner of Western Bike Works says the thief that hit their store simply removed a large window and set it aside. In their case, the suspect took only one inexpensive bike. “It would have cost us more to replace the window than the bike,” Torborg told me this morning.

Scott Caldwell, the manager of Rack Attack on SW Morrison, says someone stole a high-end downhill mountain bike that was on display in their window. Caldwell, who dubbed the suspect the “window pane bandit,” said their window was removed “with care and all the hardware was placed in a neat little pile.” “The thieves figured out that they could dash in-and-out without consequence.”

The same type of break-in happened at 21st Avenue Bicycles on Wednesday night. “The thieves broke in,” employee Kyle von Hoetzendorff told us via email, “by removing the glass from our front window and entering through the door.”

Other shops broken into in the same way include Performance Bicycle and West End Bikes.

At West End, the thief wasn’t quite as successful. Not only was he caught on the store’s video camera, but after spending an hour carefully prying out the window, an employee who has watched the video says it shattered when the thief tried to set it on the ground.

West End employee Jens Schrader says the thief worked slowly, “intermittently prying seals around glass parts of the door, getting the window pane free, then trying to remove the glass.” Once the thief got the window out, he crawled through the door, walked right over to a $4,700 Specialized road bike, cut the cable it was locked up with and walked out. “He had clearly been in the shop before,” said Schrader, “because he knew which bike he wanted and it fit him.”

If you have any information about these cases, visit the Crime Stoppers website to leave a tip or call (503) 823 HELP.

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  • GuardRail November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    There’s a special place in hell for bike thieves.

    Jonathan, can you post pictures from the security cams? I work at a local bike shop and have thwarted bike thieves before and I’d love to catch this guy.

    I wonder if it is the same guy that hit The Oregon Bike Shop?

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  • Oliver November 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    The US Outdoor Store on Broadway was hit last night as well.

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  • glazier November 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve installed hundreds of glass panes in commercial storefronts and wondered why this isn’t a bigger problem. Glass panes are merely slid into slots in aluminum channel frames with vinyl seals slid into channels used to prevent rattle and act as insulation. Anyone with a glazier vacuum cup can remove one — though it’s easier from the inside with a piece of the aluminum channel removed. All storefronts require tempered glass, which is easily shattered if a corner or edge contacts metal or the ground with slight force. Inexperienced folks should never try to install heavy glass panes by themselves — they’re called widow makers for a reason. A night crew tried to move a few of our panes waiting to be installed and all ended up in the hospital with cuts.

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    • wsbob November 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      glazier…good point. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to realize there are people out there who’ve one way or another picked up the basic procedure involved in removing a pane of glass.

      Theft becomes even easier when the activity the thief is doing leading up to the actual theft looks legitimate….making a window repair…and store security is such that a thief can be on camera for an entire hour, and nobody is there to check the camera occasionally to think ‘Hey…did we call someone to have one of our windows repaired?

      Seems like some windows have, or used to have, a thin aluminum tape strip around the perimeter of the window that would be attached by wire to an alarm. Fairly sure also, that simple security systems exist that can set off alarms if two points move from a specific alignment, as in a door or a window with its frame.

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    • sorebore November 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      Once on an art installation I did, I BARELY touched the corner of a 8ft. piece that was 1in. thick. It full on exploded in a nano second and was as loud as a shotgun blast. I wonder if the scene was noisy@ West End Bikes?

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  • bhance November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    2ndig the request for video footage. It always blows me away hearing stories like this that mention sec. footage … and then only getting a written description of the thief …

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    • Jerko November 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      We have to respect the crooks privacy.

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  • glazier November 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    The only thing I can think of to slow the window pane bandit is to silicon the vinyl in place. A pane can’t be removed unless the vinyl is removed first. Of course he could just shatter the window, but why not do so in the first place?

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  • Deeeebo November 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    that “and it fit him” part at the end is kind of weird

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  • q`Tzal November 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Mass unemployment does wonders for innovative theft.
    Why break glass when you can remove it silently?
    Why smash a door down when you are a locksmith?
    Why be stealthy when you are an alarm tech you knows the default password for all alarm systems?
    Why enter through an alarmed door or window when you know the building code and which part of the wall is easiest to go through?
    Why bother with any of this if you were a scuzzy used car salesman/lawyer/politician/Nigerian prince and can just con people out of their prize possessions?

    Yes now is the time when knowledge of professionals repollinates the knowledge base of the common thief.

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    • wsbob November 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      “…Mass unemployment does wonders for innovative theft. …” q’Tzal

      I suppose theft like this is innovative, or at least, it’s a departure from the more familiar ‘smash and grab’. This way is ‘practical and efficient’, maybe even less risky. It might not be a stretch to imagine some thieves replacing the window after the goods have been taken.

      Actually theft techniques like this are somewhat featured in popular culture…for example, movies, only with far more expensive things being stolen.

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  • meh November 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    What is the issue with using window bars. They don’t have to be obtrusive and can be quite decorative.

    If that’s too expensive look at locking up your bikes. We made our own cable locks out of coated cable from HD.

    Motion detectors and an alarm cheap insurance.

    Video systems are cheap and readily available.

    Why does it sound like these retailers aren’t taking precautions?

    You don’t have to make it impervious, you just have to make it more of a hassle so they go after the guy who doesn’t take precautions.

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    • PDX Mechanic November 8, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      I’m an employee with one of the shops hit. We cable all the bikes every night, have motion sensors and cameras. It did nothing. The guy was in the store for only 60 seconds at most. Pacific Patrol was there about 30 seconds after that. Police in about 5 minutes. The only thing that would have stopped this was a citizen saying something or calling the police when they see someone taking apart a door at 8:30 in the morning. As a city, it’s really time for us to protect each other.

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      • roger noehren November 9, 2011 at 1:17 am

        I’m impressed that the security company was there in 30 seconds (after the alarm was triggered) and even more impressed that the thief was able to snip the cable and depart with the bike in significantly less time.
        It only takes a couple of seconds to snip a cable with the right tool (which is the size of a pair of pruning sheers – ie very portable), so clearly heavier duty locks &/or window bars and heavier duty door jams are in order.
        a few months ago, I was walking by W bikes (where Django’s used to be) and commented to my friend that they were inviting a smash & grab theft – speaking from experience at several east side bike shops.

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      • Bryan Hance November 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

        So is there a reason no video has been released yet? Just curious,

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 9, 2011 at 10:16 am


          it’s not like shops can just transfer security video right to YouTube or some other easily watched public format. it takes some tech know-how/time/effort to do that. West End is working on it and i’ll post the video when they send it.

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      • wsbob November 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

        The television news clip I got a casual glimpse of, showed footage of a guy trying to remove the glass from a bike store door. It shows him working on the glass frame for while, and then apparently trying to remove it from the frame… it slips, hits the ground and impressively shatters. Kind of seemed like daylight. Seems to fit the description of the 21st street break-in as reported in this story.

        Narration of the clip, I think said people could be seen in the background of the video, just walking on by, not bothering to pay any attention to what might have been going on.

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  • sorebore November 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Seems as though Portlands finest missed their “window” of opportunity to swoop on an easy bust. If they would have just planted a couple of un-marked rollers in the area, they could have easily figured out this guys pattern. Show’s ta go ya, probably no real pressure or interest to resolve it in their eyes.

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  • Alison Pfeffer November 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    An important bit of information should be added to above story. This was reported today on the KPTV website:

    “Officers recovered two bicycles on Monday that were stolen from Performance Bicycles and Rack Attack, detectives said. They were found at the Occupy Portland encampments at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares.”

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    • wsbob November 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm

      I was near a tv when that news blip about stolen bikes and Occupy Portland flipped by. Definitely would be interested in hearing more about how those bikes came to be at OP.

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  • esther c November 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    And were they arrested for possession of stolen property?

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  • dude November 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    It’s well past time to break up the camp down town and tell these people to leave. the 3 prcincts in the area have reported crime is up 18%. Stores are being broken into, people are being assaulted , public health hazards are being ignored, head and body lice are in the camp now, rumors of scabies, illegal drugs, the city has pulled its sanitation workers away after one of them had a needle thrown at them, thousands of dollars to the parks, hundreds of thousands of dollars of police overtime, stores are now losing business because shoppers are avoiding downtown Portland.
    I would say that these people are the 1% (or less).
    Would you leave your bike parked there over night? Didn’t think so.
    These parks are off limits to the public for one year now. OCW has it exclusively for one year. No permits, insurance, no law enforcement, its like an old ming town from 150 years ago. sigh

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  • Hugh Johnson November 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    the Occupy camps are probably providing a haven for these criminals.

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    • matt picio November 9, 2011 at 2:20 am

      Pure speculation – or do you have evidence? (and if so, why aren’t you talking to the police?) You could as easily say that Mayor Sam Adams is providing a haven for these criminals.(or “this criminal”, if the police hypothesis of a single perp is true) Or Bill Sizemore, or .

      There are any number of reasons / possibilities as to why and how these bikes ended up in OP encampments.

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      • matt picio November 9, 2011 at 2:21 am

        after “or Bill Sizemore”, the original post should have said “or [insert personage / group here]”

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      • Hugh Johnson November 9, 2011 at 5:26 am

        Who says we all agree with Adams?

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  • nuffsaid November 8, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    This is so ridiculous! Is it really true that these places don’t have anything but a security camera? No alarms attached to windows that notify police, the owner, anybody?? We’ve all seen what happens when thieves are “caught on camera”…you just see an unidentifiable human being on camera. I don’t feel bad for places that don’t take measures to prevent theft.

    And why is it, with the popularity of bike theft in this very small city has nobody set up a sting operation…? a little bike bait?

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  • Rol November 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    It’s kind of impressive actually.

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    • sorebore November 9, 2011 at 11:37 am

      true… If it is one person, I would think they are on a real rush getting away with it all. I would love to see a “faux-doc ” spoof video of a giddy thief riding off into the night on a $7000 road bike!

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  • Skid November 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    @ Hugh Johnson. Occupy Portland is not deliberately providing a haven for thieves. Anyone can camp there, and unfortunately that could mean a thief or two. If they are on the street it sort of make sense to camp at Occupy, being that there is free food, and the Police will not roust you in the middle of the night and tell you to move along. The Police move freely within the camp with the co-operation of Occupy Portland. So they are just as much to thank as they are to blame.

    As far as these window removal break-ins go it just underlines the fact they we live in an actual city and if you are owning a shop with expensive bikes you should have bars in the windows. They don’t have to look like a jail, they can be artistic. There are plenty metal fabricators in this city who could design and fabricate some attractive but theft preventing window bars, and I’m sure they would appreciate the business.

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    • A.K. November 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      The Occupy folks are also in sort of a “between a rock and a hard place” predicament with who to “allow” to camp at their site, it seems to me (as an outsider, I have no connections to the Occupy protest and haven’t been down there myself).

      I’ve seen reports of trying to keep the homeless out met with comments of “what, they don’t really represent the 99% then!!”.

      So, they kick out all the “criminals”, drug users, etc. and they would just receive the label of “elitist trust fund kids with no jobs and nothing better to do”.

      Further, the police can only do so much – and it’s not like they are going to set up check-points outside of the camp and run background checks to filter out bad folks who enter.

      It seems like an unsustainable camp, in my uninformed perspective. Setting it up further away from a jail may also help…

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  • lyle November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    This is hilarious. $4,700 road bike? What, the $9,000 Venge (which is within ten feet of the window) was too good for them?

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    • jim November 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Did you ever consider that maybe he wasn’t stealing bikes? Perhaps he was stealing windows and sudennly needed a quick get away vehicle…

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      • middle of the road guy November 10, 2011 at 10:35 am

        That was pretty good!

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  • Patrick November 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    You would have thought that someone might notice this guy prying at the window if he was at it for hour.

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    • Paul Johnson November 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Give the frequency of mentally ill people here, it’s pretty easy to apply Hanlon’s Razor and assume that he just needed something to pick at.

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    • wsbob November 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      I think it was KPTV’s coverage that said if people didn’t actually notice, they were visible in the video, walking by across the street in the background from the thief working on the door window…but they did nothing.

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