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Bike shop employee snaps photo of stolen bike, suspected thief

Posted by on November 6th, 2012 at 9:38 am

Ian Collins’ stolen bike turned up at the Bike Gallery
in downtown Portland.
(Photos courtesy Ian Collins)

Ian Collins had his Cannondale stolen off his porch in Northeast Portland back in August. Now, thanks to the quick thinking of the Bike Gallery employee, he’s got a lead on a suspect and he’s hoping more people seeing the photo might lead to the bike’s recovery.

An employee of the Bike Gallery store in downtown Portland (at SW 10th and Salmon) took action after she saw a suspicious customer come into their shop. She looked up the bike on the BikePortland Stolen Bike Listings, found a match, then photographed the man who brought it in before he left the shop.

Here’s the photo of the suspected thief:

Collins said this morning that he’s “100%” positive the bike in the photo belongs to him. “I’m looking to circulate these photos to a wide audience,” he added. He also said the Bike Gallery employee told him she’s seen this same guy come in several times with different bikes, “So he could be a repeat offender.”

It’s unclear whether or not the shop employee confronted the suspected thief and/or why he was allowed to get away without questioning. (I’ve contacted the person who took the photo, and will update the story when I hear back.)

Collins is offering a $100 reward for anyone who provides information that leads to the recovery of his bike. See the stolen bike listing for his contact information and more details.

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  • bhance November 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I <3 bike gallery so hard for this right now.

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  • John Lascurettes November 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Hmm. There would be an interesting policy to get LBSs to band together around: always run a S/N check on bikes against stolen bike listings.

    Well done, Bike Gallery employee!

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  • pixelgate November 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

    This article leaves so many questions unanswered? Did Bike Gallery keep the bike? Why was the guy suspicious? I, too, have gone to that Bike Gallery with various bikes (namely because I own various bikes), does that mean I could be a suspect too? Very odd story.

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    • stephry November 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Yeah I agree, though he’s just reporting on what info he has now. I’m looking forward to more info about it

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    • lyle November 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      Doesn’t know basic features about the bike (groupset, wheels, etc), repeatedly asks if shop is interested in buying it from him for a VERY reduced price.

      First things of the top of my head that could be considered ‘suspicious’.

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  • Schrauf November 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

    It’s asking a bit much to expect a bike shop employee to do much more than she did in this case. It’s a tight line to walk between assisting with potentially stolen property and offending a customer, and even moreso confronting someone inside your shop with other customers present. Checking online before taking photos, and then contacting the owner, was a smooth move.

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  • daisy November 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I wouldn’t expect a bike shop employee to confront a suspected thief! But I’m wondering if she called 911? That’d be great.

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  • Sunny November 6, 2012 at 11:18 am

    This situation requires a third party non employee to walk in and confidently accuse the suspected thief of having his bike. This prevents the store from getting sued if the store employee is wrong.

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  • CharonPDX November 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Hopefully the employee was fairly covert about taking the picture. If this is a serial bike thief, I’d rather see him keep coming, so that an employee can call police to come get him!

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  • Mike-former Oregonian November 6, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Could be the thief, or could just be some guy like me with several bikes bought from thrift stores and craigslist and yard sales. Instead of calling gim a suspect you should just call him someone in possession of a pissibly stolen bike who might be able to help track down a bike thief. If he turns out to be a thief then prosecute and convict him, but don’t convict him without giving him the benefit of doubt. Words to the wise.

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    • Brian November 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      pissibly is my new favorite word

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  • Mike-former Oregonian November 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Sorry for the typos, thick thumbs on a touchscreen

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  • Gary Charles November 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I’m only half joking when I say that I’d like to have some kind of bike thief vigilante group set up so you could send a text message blast and people in the area could swoop in and kick the crap out of the bike thief. Sort of like an Amber alert system but for bike thieves and street justice.

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    • Editz November 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      Check this out. A small team of videographers and a GPS tracker could make for a lot of fun:


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    • Smedley Basilone November 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      Sorry I clicked “quote” instead or reply, but you get the jist.

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  • Sunny November 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve got a related question. Do police have a right to check your serial number if they pull you over on a bike. They could make up an excuse such as not signaling a lane change every time you got out of the bike lane — in the name of “recovering stolen bikes.” Or “he looked suspicious.”

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    • Editz November 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      Aren’t some numbers stamped on the underside of the bottom bracket? Could be a PITA for cops to check, especially if it’s a bike loaded down with panniers, etc.

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      • Sunny November 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

        I’ve heard of cops checking but don’t know if that constitutes an illegal search.

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    • Smedley Basilone November 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      I doubt cops care enough to look for stolen bikes, unless it’s a “Bike Cop”. Before approaching anyone with my suspicions, I check the stolen bike registry on Bike Portland. If it’s not listed, I think to myself I shouldn’t judge. It’s ridiculous how many bikes were stolen in October.

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      • Robert Burchett November 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm

        ! Bike cops seem to be chiefly concerned with things like “what is this person doing sitting on the sidewalk?” and enforcing drug laws. I am always mildly surprised to see a uniformed officer riding on the street. It’s my opinion that a bike would be a great platform for enforcing traffic laws in downtown Portland, as well as community policing. It seems that current ideas for police tactics all involve overwhelming force. So much for bikes.

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  • dude November 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    The cops once stopped a guy around 3 am because the bike looked too good for him to be riding. They ran a check on the S/N and called me to see if I could come to the station and identify it as the bike I reported stolen about 6 months earlier. It was indeed my bike and the guy was in a cell. I don’t know what became of the guy, but I was sure glad to have my bike back. The guy wasn’t the real thief. We already knew who that was by running DNA test on the cigarette butt he left behind in my garage, which he broke into to get my bike. Since he was a felon, they had his DNA on file. They even gave me his photo and name.

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  • Smedley Basilone November 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I can’t stand people who get their bikes stolen and don’t have a picture of it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! They don’t write down their serial number or have an authentic picture. I was riding through the waterfront last month and seen a nice Fuji crosspro, I immediately looked it up on the stolen listings on my phone. The person only had an email and a description. It matched and his description of the Continental Gatorskins is what tipped me off. I offered the “street kid” $100, and he said he “needed” $300 for it. While I pretended to contemplate I seen park security and rolled over to tell them what was going down. During this the dude jumped on and rode south (West side waterfront). They said only cops had the authority to take bikes back. The thing is I didn’t want to be on the hook for a $300 loss and in possession of a stolen bike. I emailed the owner while this was going on and his response was “I wish I could take the time to check the waterfront”, granted it was 9am and he was probably working. The victim in this article is offering a $100 dollar reward, what a JOKE! These thieves won’t sell it back for that much. I hope I don’t incur bad karma for this rant, but please, please, please take a current picture of your bike and write down the serial number. If Mr. Collins had did that The Bike Gallery would have checked and confiscated it and shamed the thief or called the cops. I WILL keep my eyes open for it though, and take it back if I encounter the guy. I think there should be a section on how not to lock up a bike on this website, because I see bikes worth over $500 and over $1000 locked with a $30 cable. I take pictures when I see bikes locked shoddily and show people the silliness.

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  • Smedley Basilone November 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Gary Charles
    I’m only half joking when I say that I’d like to have some kind of bike thief vigilante group set up so you could send a text message blast and people in the area could swoop in and kick the crap out of the bike thief. Sort of like an Amber alert system but for bike thieves and street justice.
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    I am that vigilante group, there isn’t anything wrong with suspecting someone of riding a stolen bike if it looks like they couldn’t afford it, or are “camping” under the bridge but are in possession of a $1000+ bike. I don’t suspect everyone, because I ride my Orbea around in sweats and flip flops, but I think more than anything we need to use awareness in locking up our bikes. Write down serial #’s, take real pictures. If you are a loner like me ask a random to use your phone to take a picture of you with your bike. I’m going to take some of mine right now.

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    • meh November 7, 2012 at 9:04 am

      I guess you agree with any type of profiling because that is what you are doing.

      I know riders who spent every penny they had on the bike of their dreams but don’t have the $$ to buy the same level of clothing.

      And there are plenty of people who no longer have a home and are camping out with what little they could keep of their prized possesions, bikes.

      Guilt through appearance and economic hard times, wow, what an idea

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      • esther c November 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm

        It is a rare person who is homeless yet retains their top of the line bikes. Realistically, most people sell their valuable possessions in an attempt to keep a roof over their head. “camping out” is no fun lifestyle choice. Being homeless isn’t some fun adventure. Believe me, anyone with a $1000 bike who could sell it pay their rent for another month or two would.

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  • Sunny November 7, 2012 at 2:09 am

    How do they ride away with a zip tied tightly on their chain?

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  • Tom M November 7, 2012 at 5:17 am

    1. GPS tracker in seat tube. Use seat tube as an antenna.
    2. App on your smartphone. Automatically watch your bike while you’re away from it.
    3. If it’s stolen the app tracks the bike automatically and reports it to the police or you could help the police track it with your phone.

    Anybody else see a ready market?

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    • El Biciclero November 7, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Changing batteries could be a pain. But if changing batteries is made easy, it’s the first thing a smart thief will do. Only he’ll forget to put new ones in…

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      • Tom M November 8, 2012 at 4:56 am

        So you actually like the idea already. That’s a good sign. Changing the battery would be no harder than swapping a battery in your cycle computer.

        You’re assuming bike thieves are smart. The majority of bike thieves are opportunists looking for a quick buck for their next fix.

        The thief would need to know where the unit is. I suspect it would be more difficult to find the tracker on the bike than you think since most thieves are in a hurry to get away from the scene.

        Apps like Lookout already send a “Signal Flare” locating the device just before the battery dies.

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  • Eric in Seattle November 7, 2012 at 8:07 am

    This is great. It seems lately that the only stolen bike recoveries I’ve been aware of have been from sharp-eyed friends, shop employees, etc. Too bad there’s not much interest from the police, but there is really little they can do in most cases. One thing all bike riders can do is to RECORD YOUR SERIAL NUMBERS! Photos and descriptions with distinguishing features of your bike are helpful, but when it comes right down to it the serial number is the best way to prove a bike is yours.

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  • kww November 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Would be great if there were a local law stating that if you wish to sell a bike to a bike store, then you would have to agree to have the bike locked up while they ran the numbers. That way if it is stolen, it would be instantly impounded and the police notified.

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    • Chucklehead November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      I can imagine some bike store employee falsely telling the customer their bike is stolen when in fact it is not.

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  • Amy November 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Hi Johnathan –
    I wish you had added my input to the reply. It’s been a few days without an update.

    I just wanted to point out a few details:

    The “suspect” came in to pump up his tires. I had seen him one time before, with a different bike. He had very strange body language that was very suspicious. While he was messing around with our shared pump, I googled the bike model name and portland to check out stolen listings. I found a similar one with only a stock photo, but the description and size matched up. I had no serial number to check or any other reason to stop the guy.

    Since I was suspicious, I covertly took a photo of the bike and the guy and emailed them privately to the author of the stolen bike listing.

    I heard back from him hours later IDing the bike in the photo as his. We haven’t seen this guy since and I doubt we will now that his photo is posted around. It’s incredibly difficult to make a judgement call when one is suspicious of a person coming into our shop. There’s usually a good deal of factors that go into it and most of the suspicious people I have seen are not buying anything or getting service, so there’s no way to check.

    I have no intention of judging people or making accusations, nor do I feel safe confronting people in my place of business. I simply wanted to loko out for the true owner of the bike.

    If he still some how gets his bike back, that’s great. In the mean time, I think it’s best if we just keep our eyes out and take watch of what’s going on around us and hope others do the same for our bikes/homes/cars/etc.

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