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PPB officer on a mission to curb downtown bike theft

Posted by on October 29th, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Ofcr David Sanders PPB

Officer David Sanders.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s a strong feeling among many in the community that the Portland Police Bureau simply doesn’t care about bike theft. I hear this sentiment all the time, and I agree that the bureau needs to step up and make this growing problem a higher priority.

In the meantime however, it’s good to know there are some PPB officers going out of their way to battle bike thieves. Officer David Sanders is one of them; but unfortunately he’s doing it inside a bureau that has yet to join him in the fight.

I met Sanders last week at his headquarters office in Old Town.

As he led me into a conference table, I noticed about 8-10 bikes strewn about. They were just the latest batch that Sanders and his partners have taken off the streets and now hope to connect with their owners. Sanders is one of six members of the the downtown Bicycle Patrol Unit (four of which are paid for by Portland Patrol Inc., a private security company that contracts with the PPB), whose job is to keep the peace on the streets. The bulk of his day is responding to low-level disputes and establishing relationships with downtown residents and business owners.

But whenever he can find a few extra minutes, his attention turns to bike theft.

Sanders and his partners cover a swath of downtown that sees more bike theft than anywhere else in the city. Its boundaries include: Portland State University to Union Station and SW 10th the the river.

Stolen bikes at drug bust in Old Town-6

The PPB recovered dozens of bikes during a raid in Old Town in July 2012.

As we chatted, he pulled out a thick folder with “bike theft” on the label. Inside were various bits of research and stories he’d printed up from the web, information on suspects, and statistics and maps showing the extent of the problem.

“There’s no one [in the bureau] dedicated to bike theft. It would be nice if the city said, ‘This is a priority for us.'”
— Officer David Sanders, Portland Police Bureau

According to stats Sanders requested from the Portland Police Data System (PPDS), there have been 887 bikes stolen in the central core area (downtown Portland and the lower eastside) in the past 20 months. Based on the bureau’s estimated value, those stolen bikes represent a total of $748,456 in lost property.

To Sanders, this dollar amount validates his hunch that bike theft is a serious issue. When I asked if he felt it deserved more attention from the bureau and City Hall, Sanders said, “Absolutely,” without hesitation. In three and-a-half years on his current beat, Sanders has noticed a definite uptick. Unfortunately, despite his interest and eagerness in tackling the problem, Sanders can only do so much because bike theft is not a significant part of his official job description.

“There’s no one [in the bureau] dedicated to bike theft,” he shared, “It would be nice if the city said, ‘This is a priority for us.'”

Sanders said “person crimes” are where most of the bureau’s resources are focused; but he also pointed out that they do take auto theft seriously, so perhaps the consequences for bike theft in the criminal code should be more severe.

A lack of internal support, however, has not stopped Sanders. In addition to studying the crime by crunching numbers and bike theft hot spot maps, he’s also made personal visits to local bike shops to warn them about specific known thieves.

Top Stolen Bike Brands
(by cases and value, since 01/01/13):

  • Trek: 115, $103,915
  • Specialized: 81, $91,221
  • Cannondale: 43, $42,027
  • Giant: 38, $40,221

  • *Source: Portland Police Data System (PPDS)

On October 10th, Sanders issued a Central Precinct Bulletin with the mugshots and names of 11 bike theft subjects. He then printed it out and shared it with several downtown bike shops. He wants shop employees to know these faces because many of them are repeat offenders who specialize in taking bikes. Sanders told me about one person he arrested who had “About 10 u-lock keys on a key-ring.”

Many of the bikes Sanders recovers come from what he referred to as “chop shops” that operate in known encampments around the city. He mentioned two specific locations where he’s tracked down stolen bikes: NW 19th and Savier and under the I-5 freeway at SE Water and Stark. (For more on how the PPB handles chop shops, see our story from last year.)

Sanders also wants to start training other officers to get them up to speed on bicycles. A big problem, he explained, is that most officers — when they arrest someone and find bicycles in their possession — have no idea how to distinguish between a $5,000 racing bike and a $50 beater bike.

Raising the priority of this crime within the PPB culture also means that more officers must start seeing bicycles as vital transportation vehicles that have not just a similar (if not greater) street value as many used cars, but are also just as important to their owners.

One thing Sanders hasn’t pursued much is a bait-bike program where a decoy bike is put out and monitored by officers in hopes that a thief tries to take it. “No time,” replied Sanders when I asked about this, “I’m doing all of this stuff on-the-side as it is.”

If Sanders ran the bureau, he’d love to see a central investigator to coordinate bike theft efforts and two to three officers assigned to the project. “That would be a huge win for the city,” he said.

— This is part of our ongoing reporting on bike theft. Read past coverage here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

70 Comments
  • MR October 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    I think that sheet of bike thief’s should be posted to this article. I’ve seen the sheet, rough looking crew.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks for the feedback MR.

      I have a color copy that Sanders gave me and I thought about it long and hard and decided I wouldn’t publish it. It’s tricky territory for me to post people’s faces and names who are not actively wanted for a crime. Not only that, but the fine print on the bulletin says “This information is confidential and should be restricted to law enforcement personnel only.”

      i’ve learned over the years that on matters like this it’s best to err on the side of caution. 😉

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      • lyle w. October 29, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        What if someone who had no connection to Bikeportland at all– aside from commenting– had a link and posted that link as a concerned citizen for people to see?

        Or if they had an email address that was something along the lines of lyleleander AT gmail.com and would be willing to send it to people who were interested?

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  • davemess October 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    “have no idea how to distinguish between a $5,000 racing bike and a $50 beater bike.”

    Easiest way is to just pick it up.

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    • Joseph E October 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Usually true, but cargo bikes and other heavy bikes sold at places like Splendid Cycles and Clever Cycles can also be very valuable.

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  • Jeff Bernards October 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    It’s time for a kickstarter effort to get some bait bikes, GPS tracking devices and some officer hours. Maybe get a few thieves off the streets. I know finning them is somewhat unrealistic, but maybe?

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  • Anne October 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    What can we citizens and bike riders do to help him?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Keep reading BikePortland and stay engaged with the issue.

      Seriously… My goal/plan is to stay focused on this issued through a mix of events, meetings, and stories until it gets more attention from City Hall and PPB higher-ups. I am hoping to pull a meeting together with Ofcr Sanders and others soon. Also thinking we will make the next “Wonk Night” event focused solely on bike theft and prevention.

      Other things you can do would be to stay tuned for opportunities to weigh on the PPB budget. That’s ultimately where changes might have be made if we ever want bike theft to get the attention it deserves.

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      • Gaby October 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm

        What we need is a “Broken Windows” type study that would show a correlation between a decrease in bike theft and a decrease in other types of crime. Now… how do we get someone to do that? Anyone know an eager PSU student looking for a Master’s thesis?

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        • Dwaine Dibbly October 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm

          I was thinking something along the same lines: people who steal bikes are probably committing other crimes as well. (Definitely need data. Maybe somebody at PSU is looking for a project?) Crack down on bike thievery and you’ll improve livability downtown in other ways as well.

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          • Brian October 30, 2014 at 10:22 am

            How so? By raising our incarceration rates even higher, and adding to the financial burden of doing so?

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    • paikiala October 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Lobby City Hall.

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  • Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database) October 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    “have no idea how to distinguish between a $5,000 racing bike and a $50 beater bike.”

    Why should it matter? The person with a $50 beater bike that gets stolen may need that bike for their daily livelihood far more than the person with the $5000 racing bike. And it may be far harder for the person with the stolen $50 beater bike to replace it than the person with the $5k bike who likely has more disposable income.

    Bike theft is bike theft, regardless of whose bike it is and what it’s worth. All bike theft should be taken seriously.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu October 29, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Because theft of $1000 is a Class C felony. Penalties are different, likelihood of prosecution is different. In a perfect world every theft would be investigation, prosecuted, and punished appropriately, even theft of a pack of chewing gum. But we’re not in a perfect world, police and prosecutors have limited resources.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu October 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        Hmm, my post got truncated, I meant to include that theft of less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor, theft of $100 to $1000 is a Class A misdemeanor, in addition to theft of over $1000 being a Class C felony.

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        • Edward October 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm

          The bigger problem is the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, which refers to charges of a stolen vehicle as either, “UUMV” (unlawful use of a motor vehicle) (ORS 164.135) and/or “PSMV” (possession of a stolen motor vehicle) (ORS 819.300), when neither of those statutes actually include the “M”. They’ll charge you for a DUII on your bike because they know a bike is a “vehicle” but they won’t charge a person for the bike stealing because, well, it’s just a bike and the acronym is “UUMV,” and a bike just really isn’t a serious vehicle, is it?

          That’s right, stealing a bike is already a felony under Oregon law without regard to the price-point value — just nobody bothers to actually treat it that way.

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          • Daniel L October 30, 2014 at 10:26 am

            Yes, this is untested ground though, it’s not just Multomah County, I don’t know of any precedent for it though I may be wrong. It would take a prosecutor willing to push it through appeals for what would still be a pretty minimal sentence.

            It would likely be easier to just amend the ORS to specifically include bicycles and human powered vehicles in the same way it includes boats and airplanes.

            It is worth noting that there’s apparently a court ruling that allowed someone to be charged under this for driving a stolen forklift, even though forklifts aren’t licensed for road use, so that already removes the argument that it only applies to licensed vehicles.

            Not only would it make it an automatic felony but it is much easier to convict under the unauthorized use or possession charges since you don’t have to show that the person actually stole it themselves.

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            • Edward October 30, 2014 at 1:08 pm

              I think it’s more than that. It’s a situation of multiple parts of the institutional system not wanting to change. The felony DAs don’t (normally) get handed police reports nor files on bike theft because the police do not treat those cases that way. The police don’t treat it that way because the DA’s haven’t wanted to be bothered with it. See? it’s a circle. And the parts of the circle each call the crime a name which inserts an element which is not in the code.

              Most bike thefts, when caught, are sent into community court under a charge of something like Theft II.

              I think the real problem is that everybody can sympathize with the dumb kid who grabbed a bike from in front of the plaid-pantry or maybe took his classmate’s bike out for a “joy-ride” — in that maybe that kid (young adult) should not be permanently labelled as a felon, etc., and face difficulty getting into school, work, jobs, etc. Maybe that guy should get just community service, etc.

              But then there are people operating bike theft rings, and they are doing it precisely because nobody bothers — it’s just bikes. They are flying under the radar out in the open. That needs to change, both with the police, and with the DA’s office.

              There does not need to be any change nor amendment to the ORS’s because plenty of other criminal cases have determined that a bike is a vehicle. But without even looking at those other cases, we can look at just this code provision to tell that bikes are included. For example, the part of the code includes “boats”. It does not say motorized boats (which would surely be included). But stealing a kayak, canoe, row-boat or other human powered boat would still be a boat, and it would be included in this code provision as a felony. To do otherwise would be for the court to insert something into the code which is not there. The legislature is presumed to know how to craft a code provision which could distinguish between motorized and non-motorized vehicles. Bikes are vehicles. Stealing a vehicle is a felony. So, bike theft is already a felony. They just don’t charge it that way.

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              • Daniel L October 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

                Other criminal charges, like the riding a bike while intoxicated fall back on the explicit statement that on public roads bicycle riders have all the same rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle user unless otherwise noted. That means if you’re riding on a public road you’re subject to dui rules.

                None of that defines a bicycle as a vehicle equivalent to a motor vehicle though, they only apply to the operator. The unlawful operation of a vehicle law is more vague about what a vehicle is, and I don’t think there are any definitions spelled out elsewhere that make it more clear. That is almost certainly intentional since a definition may end up excluding things unintentionally, but how broad it covers is going to come down to a court decision about it. Boats and Airplanes are also “vehicles” so if it was intended to cover everything you could possibly call a vehicle already you wouldn’t think you would need to be explicit about those two. And if it does cover bicycles already does it go further? Is a skateboard a vehicle? Or a wheelchair?

                I think also that without question theft of a kayak or canoe would be charged under theft 1 or 2, not under unlawful use of a vehicle so there’s not really different standard there. It’s not such a pressing issue though, since I don’t know of an epidemic of canoe thefts going on.

                I do think there’s a credible claim that it already does apply to bicycles, an ambitious prosecutor may be able to make it stick, but you’d be on much firmer footing with it by amending the law to make it explicit.

                It’s also the case that there’s not a lot of difference in how class 1 misdemeanors and class 3 felonies are treated so the only reason to push it would be the broader language that makes it easier to charge someone under it, not the automatic felony. That’s worth it to me, but probably not to most prosecutors.

                I’m not generally a fan of overly harsh punishments I do think one of the reasons bike theft is so common is because at present even in the already unlikely situation where you are caught red handed stealing a bicycle pretty much the worst punishment dealt out is a couple of days in jail. Not the most pleasant, but especially for a repeat offender it’s not much of a deterrent. If you’re not caught actually stealing it, and just riding or otherwise possessing a bike that has been reported stolen you’re not likely to ever be charged with anything as long as you stick to the “I didn’t know it was stolen” story even when it is an obvious lie. Stealing a bike is one of the quickest and least risky illegal ways to make a few dollars right now and one way or another that should change.

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            • Beth November 1, 2014 at 3:42 pm

              As soon as we clamor for encofrcement of bike theft as a vehicle felony, we open the door to mandatory bicycle insurance and bicyclist licensing, neither of which I am in favor of since I do not believe they would do anything to make me safer out on the roads.

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        • Daniel L October 30, 2014 at 10:08 am

          The sentencing matrix breaks it down even more, anything under $5000 has a minimal sentence even if it is a felony for over $1000. They only start to get serious about it for things over $5000, which only a very small percentage of bikes fall into.

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      • GlowBoy October 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

        Has anyone contacted the MultCo DA for their position on bike theft prosecutions? I’d like to hear their response. Seems to me it’s a significant enough problem that they should at least pursue the occasional felony case, at least against multiple-repeat offenders.

        I recognize that they may not be able to prosecute under the motor vehicle theft statute. As I understand it, the Bicycle Bill redefined bicycles as Motor Vehicles only for purposes of the existing Motor Vehicle Code, which is probably a different part of the ORS than the theft statutes. I also recognize that a stolen bicycle doesn’t present the same kind of potential for mayhem and crime enablement that a stolen car does.

        But still, if $1000 of value is the threshold for felony prosecution, I would expect to see them invoking it from time to time. This is a real quality-of-life issue for a significant and growing segment of Multnomah County’s population.

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    • Eric in Seattle October 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      As a matter of law, it is a more severe crime to be in possession of $5000 of stolen property than $50.

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    • Sam October 29, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Exactly. A $5000 bike is often a toy for the rich where as $50 ‘beater’ bike can be necessary transportation tool of the poor.

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      • Brian October 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm

        And often a $50 beater bike is the 2nd or 3rd bike for someone with a $5,000 bike. And often a $5,000 (or $2000 or $1000) is the only mode of transportation for someone with no other disposable income. There are way too many variables (combined with limited resources), which means having to set priorities. Delineations in theft levels based on value, and consequences for each level, are not specific to bikes either.

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        • Colton October 29, 2014 at 3:26 pm

          I’d like to meet that person who owns a $5000 bike and can’t afford a $50 beater. If they can’t afford a $50 beater I don’t see how they can afford to risk losing their $5000 bike.

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        • davemess October 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

          Brian, I will contest this. In my experience the connoisseurs that own $5k bikes usually are very finicky with ALL their rides.

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    • Troy October 30, 2014 at 7:42 am

      To identify the thief. Seeing a homeless person with a $5k bike would be a more significant clue that the person has a stolen bike.

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  • Ethan Jewett October 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    What this city needs is a bike advocacy organization.

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  • Zaphod October 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    I think the implied statement is that if a homeless person is sitting on 3 $5000 race bikes that do not fit him/her, then the likelihood of those being stolen is high. A $50 beater bike may very well been bought in a legit way.

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  • Rob Chapman October 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for the effort Officer Sanders. Hopefully you don’t take any static for speaking plainly on the topic.

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    • John Lascurettes October 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Yes, thanks, Officer Sanders.

      And thank you Jonathan for asking the bait bike question. That was the first thought I had as soon as I read the headline. It’s sad that we can’t even get the advocate within the PPD enough time to try that.

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson October 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Go By Bike Valet = 97,000 bikes parked and zero bike thefts or lights or helmets or bags… just saying….

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    • bryan hance October 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Is a good point. Still lots of bikes still being taken from inside businesses, homes, garages, shared basements, smash-and-grabs, etc. though.

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    • Dwaine Dibbly October 29, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      It’s a great statistic, but I wonder if it would hold up if you were located somewhere besides So Waterfront, though.

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  • Todd Boulanger October 29, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Yes, as Kiel mentioned above, secure 24/7 Bikestation type facilities (Go By Bike, PSU Hub, etc.) have historically very low theft incidences for locked bikes.

    And as such the investment in such facilities are an important tool for addressing theft of bikes that need to be parked long term (> 2 hours) and supporting higher “bikes as transport” growth (riders who need in invest in higher quality bikes and accessories). Imagine Portland if there was only secure long term parking for <1 % of central city car drivers.

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  • Todd Hudson October 29, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I used to blame PPB for the high prevalence of bike theft, but learned Multnomah County (under whom are prosecutors, criminal courts, and MCDC) is really the weak link.

    Remember Robert Charles Dady? *After* he was featured here a year ago, he’s earned another 28 CHARGES related to theft (assuming I’m reading PDX mugshots correctly), including felony theft. His name is a rash all over the DA’s website. Why is he not locked up after dozens of arrests? Some people cannot be rehabilitated and need to be isolated from society.

    Since MCDC is overcrowded, non-violent offenders matrix out ridiculously fast, and go straight back to car/yard prowls and bike theft. Their sentences are minimal or they once again immediately matrix out of jail. Cops only affect them incidence of getting caught, and the County affects the actual punishment for getting caught. With no real punishment, getting caught doesn’t matter much in a thief’s calculus of whether to go back stealing stuff – it’s not helpful that a thief gets taken to MCDC and is back on the street before that cop’s shift is over.

    tl;dr – we could bust every bike thief in the county, but they go through a revolving door back to the street and start stealing again. This is because Multnomah County does not make property crime a high priority.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      I hear you about the importance of Multnomah County in all this Todd and am already on that wavelength. Absolutely.

      Bike theft in Portland is an enabler of crime-filled lives and especially the local drug problem. I think/hope that by doing more to stop bike theft, we can put a dent in those other problems at the same time. I’m happy to have some good contacts in the DA’s office that I plan to be in touch with for advice.

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      • Todd Hudson October 29, 2014 at 5:05 pm

        I realize it’s a drug problem. Unfortunately, my compassion towards these people has really taken a shellacking, because I’ve endured more property theft here than I have anywhere else I’ve lived. Stripped bike. House burglarized. Stolen bike lights. Yard prowls. Being afraid to lock up in a large swath of the city. Wondering *when*, not if, my garage will be burglarized.

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    • Mike October 30, 2014 at 10:17 am

      What is your suggestion for punishment for Robert Charles Dady?
      Just curious and not disagreeing with you.
      I personally don’t want to pay for his incarceration for 20-30 years, and as you pointed out, he is of no value to our society. Would death be too harsh?
      At his age, 20-30 years probably would be a lifetime sentence.

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      • shaun November 26, 2014 at 9:03 pm

        Dady — Charles Robert Dady, 63, of Veneta, died Nov. 17. Arrangements by Andreason’s Cremation & Burial Service in Springfield.

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    • shaun November 26, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Dady — Charles Robert Dady, 63, of Veneta, died Nov. 17. Arrangements by Andreason’s Cremation & Burial Service in Springfield.

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  • groovin101 October 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I wonder what the impact would be if we contacted PPB in droves. It seems that PPB email addresses are unpublished, forcing us to sign up with portlandoregon.gov, but there is a contact form.

    From your previous story here: http://bikeportland.org/2014/06/18/ppb-chief-reese-takes-shift-downtown-bike-patrol-107500, it seems Chief Reese is aware of the problem. Having done bike patrols once a month, he very well may have already talked with Officer Sanders about it. Maybe they just need some nudging like what BikeLoud’s been doing with the postcard campaign.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 29, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Yes I think this is an issue of nudging and budgets and the general tact of raising the profile of this issue via every avenue available.

      I have great confidence right now in the leadership of the PPB on issues like this. I feel like it’s a matter of if, not when and having someone like Sanders ready and willing to do more on the issue is an important component.

      The next thing I want to do is set up a meeting with Sanders, Bryan Hance (developer of our bike listings and now with BikeIndex.org), bike shop owners, social service/advocates, commissioner staff, Police Chief staff, and do on. Like a mini Bike Theft Summit.

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  • lyle w. October 29, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    If you steal a car, every single cop within that side of the city it was stolen from is actively looking for it the second it is reported, and if they see it, they do a ‘felony stop’ and arrest the driver at gunpoint.

    If you steal a bike, you barely get a hearty sigh after waiting around for three hours for a cop to have free time, and maybe a direction to fill out some forms, or, you know… whatever.

    And then we have to sit here and still try to figure out what the city’s priorities are when it comes to bike transportation.

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    • Dave October 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Problem is, cars are easier to track and far harder to take apart.

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      • Pete October 30, 2014 at 8:44 am

        Yes, and they also have license plates. Many cities through the years have actively pursued bike licensing for this purpose (and not revenue for infrastructure like some folks scream). San Jose, CA, for instance discovered not too long ago it had a mandatory bike licensing law still on its books. As we’ve learned through the years they do not pay for themselves though and are also not very effective.

        This is where the idea of people and police using an online national bike registry database comes in handy… (cue: “hey, weren’t we just reading about that on BP??”).

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  • Adam October 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Even, auto theft is not addressed so much more effectively. Some North Precinct police officers, for years new about an ongoing auto chop-shop before serious action was taken. (see link)

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/10/portland_car_theft_investigati.html

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  • J_R October 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I suspect many bikes are going for scrap metal after some parts are removed and sold. Any leads on that?

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  • Charles Ross October 29, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I have an idea for stopping bike theft. It would take a long time to effect but could be a real solution. Require bikes to sport an easily accessible bar code that can be scanned and compared to a data base of listed stolen bikes.
    Officers, or even designated individuals, could scan bikes as they see them and verify they are not in the system as ‘stolen’. Bikes lack the bar code, or bar codes that have been altered or damaged would be regarded as ‘stolen’.
    This is one method used to identify stolen cars and it is against the law to remove or alter the VIN on a car.
    I realize that this is a rather futuristic idea. It would require that all new bikes be sold with a BIN number (a bicycle identification number) and it may require that all existing bikes be outfitted with that BIN.

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    • Dwaine Dibbly October 29, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      Perhaps the bike theft database and PPB could partner on something. Let the private sector keep the database of bikes/owners/BINs and PPB could commit to using it. The BIN couldn’t be a sticker, though, since that would be easily removed.

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      • bryan hance October 31, 2014 at 3:33 pm

        I’ve often argued that just moving the serial from the bottom of the frame to the side of the top tube – i.e. somewhere more prevalent, where people would get used to seeing it and checking it out – would solve a HUGE part of the problem. But to do this would take mfg. process changes.

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        • Craig Dobson November 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

          If I may, as a police officer for over 16 years I have checked 100’s of bikes while working the street, knowing that many of them are stolen. The problem we, the police face is that if someone has not reported the bike stolen AND given us the Serial number there is no way for the police to know if it is stolen. The simplest way to make it easier to get bikes back to their owners and arrest the theives is to register the bike and/or remember the serial number. The serial number is key. For the us it doesn’t matter where the serial number is, where it is curently is fine.

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  • tee October 29, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I am happy to hear that the bike theft problem is being taken seriously. Helping officers distinguish between $5000 bikes and $50 bikes will be good. It is very important for officers to understand the size of bike vs. the person matters too. One of my stolen bikes was recovered because a giant man brought in my smallest men’s size possible bike into a shop. If a sharp employee hadn’t been paying attention, it never would have been found.

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  • Dave October 30, 2014 at 8:47 am

    As was suggested on another thread here recently, maybe bike stores in the metro area should stop selling wishful-thinking locks such as cables and half-assed chains and u-locks. A good quality lock is still a lot less money than even many department store bikes these days.

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    • Mike October 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

      You would probably be surprised how hard it can be to up-sell to a u-lock.
      There are many people out there that just absolutely do not want a u lock.

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    • was carless October 30, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      This lock should be the only lock you’ll ever need:

      http://www.onguardlock.com/bruteseries

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      • Mike October 30, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        That is an $80 lock you are trying to sell to someone with a $50 bike? Even an owner of a $200 bike will probably balk at that cost.

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    • GlowBoy October 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      I don’t think halting the sales of cable locks quite the right solution though. Although they are inadequate for primary bike security, cable locks are still useful for securing front wheels, saddles, etc. while the bike itself is U-locked. I never ride anywhere without a U-lock, but I use a cable lock too.

      But I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying: at a minimum, bike shops ought to segregate secondary-security locks from those that are suitable for actual bike security.

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  • Adam H. October 30, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Thanks, Officer Sanders, for looking out for us!

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  • was carless October 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Springwater anyone? There is a camp along the river about 100 meters south of the Ross Island bridge. Everytime I go by it, I see at least one or two bike trailers full of stripped bike frames going in or out of the camp. They have even added a hoist system, to allow easy transport of heavy loads up and down the river bank. I’m not sure how many people are living there, but it must be at least a dozen or so. I can’t even comprehend how many bikes they must be working through… a thousand a month? More?

    Two years ago, noone was camping there. Something really needs to be done about it, they are obviously profiting from close-in SE/downtown access and keeping their activities somewhat concealed.

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    • bryan hance October 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Agreed. This is an enormous part of the problem, i.e. these repeat untouched homeless camp/chop shops.

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  • MaxD October 31, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    The thing that keeps nagging me about the tent-city chop-shops is how impressive they are! These are people who clearly understand the power of bikes! With very little resources few tools, no covered space, no electricity, etc, they build up these pretty sophisticated businesses. If the mental health issue and addiction issues could be worked on, these people seem to possess the skills and initiative needed to launch a legitimate, bike-based business. It seems so expensive and counter-productive to imprison the petty criminals (some of them, yes- but hopefully not all of them!).

    On the other hand, I hear rumors of some organized, west coast, stolen bike distribution ring that drives up an down the I-5 corridor with a bus and trailer, buying and selling stolen bikes. For my money, I would like the law to go after these people and lock them up! I can see some similarities to prostitution- go after the pimps and johns, do what you can to protect and support the women.

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  • Randy October 31, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Interns can help, however we need the PD to allocate their staff to attend to bike theft. This city values bicycling.

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  • PoPo October 31, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    The police have easy access to a pretty nice database we might be familiar with: http://bikeportland.org/2012/09/10/stolen-bike-listings-creator-gets-commendation-from-portland-police-bureau-77032

    Like thefts from cars, this is a problem that the police will never solve through arrests or bait bikes. I spent hours with teams of officers watching bait bikes, ready to pounce on thieves. The ratio of arrests/officer hours was pathetic. And as mentioned above, property thieves are rarely “off the street” for very long because the DA and the jail are spending their limited resources and space on more serious crimes. Really. Really. “Police arrest the thieves” is not the answer. It isn’t.

    The solution here is prevention. And it is a community prevention project, which includes the police, as well as lots of other stakeholders. Map the hot spots… Educate… Use a burly U-lock. Build more secure parking areas… Lock the garage… More valet parking… Consciously take a look at bike racks when you pass and call police if you see something/someone suspicious…Get the used bike stores on the lookout…what else?….

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  • TOM November 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    PPD sure did mobilize when Lea Trent’s cruiser was stolen.

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  • JasonS November 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    It takes more than one nice cop with a selfless agenda to fix what’s happening. I work at Western Bikeworks (the nearest shop to the mentioned chop-shop camp at 19th and Savier), and we see so many people that are convicted bike thieves 10x over. I’ve literally had people cut brakes off of bikes across the street from us and had to chase them down the street. NW Portland will be worse than lower Morrison or Lloyd Center for bike theft in the next year. It’s absolutely the worst place to lock up a bike in Portland in my opinion. Your best bet is two u-locks, locking up in smart places, and having your bike stored inside of your house (not in immediate view of windows or entrances) while you sleep. NEVER leave a bike locked up on the street overnight.

    If you go to any other major cycling city (New York, SF, Chicago, Minneapolis) you will see a consistent trend of people with $100 Diamondback beaters and Schwinn Varsity clunkers locked up with TWO Kryptonite New Yorker locks. Yeah, $200 of locks on a $100 at best bike. Portland is coming to terms with it’s place as a major city, and part of that is adjusting to major city crime. When your police force fails you, don’t act surprised, do something proactive for your safety and the safety of your personal property: buy another #@&$%^! lock. Like the old saying goes: when being chased by a bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than your friends. You don’t need 4 u-locks and a chain, but to the typical meth-head, two locks looks like a lot more work than one.

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    • Alan 1.0 November 3, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Good advice but – serious question! – how often (relatively) are bikes stolen that are locked with a single good U-lock? Is the low-hanging fruit now single U-locks, or is it still unlocked, cable-locked and/or poorly locked bikes?

      How about tamper-resistant fasteners? Skewers, steerer cap screws, seat binders, etc. Are you seeing those being defeated much?

      Which, if any, U-locks are sold as pairs with matching keys?

      Aside, I’m seeing fresh, new progress on BikeIndex! Woohoo! 🙂

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  • Mtnbkr November 6, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    One avenue that I haven’t seen tried yet is an attempt to tackle this from a tops down approach.
    What if the state of OR mandated that anyone selling more than (say) 5 bikes in a calendar year was required to maintain a listing of all bikes, serial numbers, and sales. This listing would be held at the state level and be available to the general public (open source?) for searching (minus any personally identifiable data that would only be visible to Police).
    This would ensure that bike shops, pawn shops, and flea marketeers would all need to keep track of their inventory.
    A licensing fee of (say) $100 a year could help pay for the program and there would be penalties for those not in compliance.

    The idea here is that is you make it more difficult to fence the stolen property, the thieves would be less likely to steal that type of property in the first place. It wouldn’t eliminate bike theft completely, but it would take away the bulk sales of stolen bikes and most certainly address the bulk thefts. There would be the usual groaning about instituting a licensing structure and requiring bikes shops to pay for it and maintain the data, however most legit bike shops already keep a record of there inventory, the problem is that the data is localized and not available.

    This could be an end run around the Craigslist and eBay issue as well as presumably those ‘sellers’ of bikes would need to comply and would finally be forced to document the serial numbers of the bikes.

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