If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Portland has a serious theft problem when it comes to bicycles and bike parts. For all of you that feel hopeless about it, I wanted to chime in and say I think there are some signs that the tide is finally starting to turn against the thieves.
We’ve been focused on this issue for over nine years — ever since we first launched our Stolen Bike Listings in September 2005. Since then we’ve helped recover so many bikes I stopped counting a long time ago (I’d guess it’s well into the 100s by now). Back in the early days I actually used to list bikes manually while taking information from aggrieved victims over the phone!
Almost 6,000 stolen bikes later, our listings have become a key part of the local fight against thieves.
Unfortunately our listings have been down since July. That’s because Portland resident and stolen bike superhero Bryan Hance of BikeIndex.org (formerly StolenBicycleRegistry.com), has been working on a complete revamp that will sync all our data with BikeIndex and add new, powerful features that will make it easier than ever to recover stolen bikes. We hope to re-launch our listings in the next few weeks.
But recovery sucks, because that means the thieves already won half the battle (by nabbing your bike in the first place). Our goal should be to prevent theft from happening in the first place. We’ve done some work on that front in the past by partnering up with the Portland Police and Transportation bureaus to create educational materials and online resources aimed at spreading theft prevention tips.
Now, with the bike theft problem at what feels like an all-time high, we are once again working to raise the profile of bike theft by working with our city partners.
Earlier this month, I was honored to be invited to a meeting at City Hall to sit down with Mayor Charlie Hales and incoming Police Chief Larry O’Dea. I had no idea what to expect. I showed up as a community advocate, not as a journalist. When I got there I was in awe of the people who joined us around the big wooden table in the august Rose Room: leaders of major social justice, equity, and racial equality advocacy groups. It wasn’t the crowd I was used to sitting with at City Hall. I felt a bit out of place, but figured if the Mayor’s office wanted me to be there, they had a good reason.
I spent most of the meeting just listening and learning. When I did get a chance to speak, I urged (current) Assistant Chief O’Dea to prioritize three things: Get more officers on the bicycle patrol unit (which would be a huge boost to community policing efforts many people around the table were clamoring for); take a closer look at the proliferation of people living in camps along multi-use paths like the Springwater Corridor; and take the problem of bike theft much more seriously.
I’m confident Asst. Chief O’Dea heard my concerns and I’m looking forward to following up with him on all fronts once he settles into office in January.
In the meantime, Bryan is working hard to re-launch our new-and-improved Stolen Bike Listings, and I’ve got another meeting with the Portland Police Bureau next week. I’m getting together with Central Precinct to hear what they’ve been working on and what additional steps we might take to turn the tables on the thieves.
— Read all our bike theft coverage here.