The story behind the new Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force

Posted by on February 26th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

bttflogo

Rough version of new logo.

By now you might have heard that the Bike Theft Task Force we’ve been working on since mid-October was launched today. Well, sort of.

The Portland Police Bureau sent out a media advisory about a press conference to announce the initiative, but then the event was cancelled this morning. What the heck it going on you ask? Here’s the deal…

The urgency to do something about bike theft and prevention in this town has been building for years. This past summer, we saw the issue spiraling out of control and I – along with my friends Bryan Hance at Bike Index and J. Allard at Project 529 — decided enough is enough. Since then, we’ve made a focused effort to raise the profile of the issue. Here on the site we’ve published many stories and launched the Bike Theft Chronicles column to illustrate how widespread the problem is, how it impacts Portlanders, and how brazen bike thieves have become.

We’ve also worked offline. Four months ago I attended a meeting at City Hall convened by Mayor Hales to share community priorities with Police Chief Larry O’Dea. At that meeting I told him more needed to be done to address this problem. We also put together the Portland Bike Theft Summit back in December, which was the first time all the various stakeholders came under one roof to share stories and solutions. I also met with Commander Robert King of East Precinct to hear his concerns about the problem and update him on what others were doing about it. Then I threw a hail-Mary pass and asked Chief O’Dea if he’d meet with me so I could pitch him on our single biggest request: To make the issue an official agency priority within the Portland Police Bureau.

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Chief O’Dea’s strong enthusiasm for the idea (he was actually more gung-ho and confident in the concept than I was!) set everything in motion. Officers Dave Sanders and David Bryant, two highly-regarded members of the Bike Patrol Unit at Central Precinct, were the natural choices to take the bull by the horns. As you might recall, it was Ofcr. Sanders who reached out to me in October because he was working the bike theft beat as hard as he could, but felt hamstrung by limited time and resources to devote to it.

Today I’m very happy to report that we got our wish: The Portland Police Bicycle Theft Task Force, a true “A-Team” ready to tackle this tough problem. Chief O’Dea came through for the community. With his support and Officers Sanders and Bryant all lined up, we will finally be able to give bike theft prevention and recovery the attention it deserves.

Now, about today’s press conference…

All of us want to see this work begin as soon as possible because we know the issue is alive and well (we’ve seen the video and photos taken yesterday of alleged chop shops going strong near the Eastbank Esplanade). That’s part of the reason why we were so eager to get this thing officially launched. So eager in fact, that we jumped the gun a bit in announcing the press conference.

We decided to hit pause because we need a bit more time to flesh out our plans and make sure this thing works. In the end, this delay will make our efforts more successful.

As the community liaison on the Task Force, I’m happy answer your questions (whether you’re a reader, reporter, or both). It’s not my usual thing to take a direct advocacy role, but I felt like this was something I had to do and it’s been a great journey so far.

I hope you’ll bear with me as it all shakes out.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this before the end of March. For now, follow the new Portland Police Bureau Twitter account @PPBBikeTheft and stay tuned right here to the Front Page.

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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TimoActiveTransportationista
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TimoActiveTransportationista

Congratulations on all the success making this issue a priority.
End Bike Theft! (.org)

John Landolfe
Guest

First, thanks for working on this important issue. Second, thanks for profiling parking operations like bike valet that have to date served over 100,000 trips without a single theft. At first look, it was a little odd to see 3 major local news stories in 24 hours about bike theft without a single mention of the most effective anti-theft initiative in the city’s history.

But I think it’s actually the right tone for right now. Working strategies don’t need another pat on the back. We need acceptance that we’re dealing with an epidemic–even if cities across the globe have grown accustom to it.

Once we’ve shifted public perception to one of urgency, I would love to get back to the conversation on prevention. Parking has been absent in this news cycle but it is at the foundation of prevention.

Statistically, bikes are safer on OHSU campuses than at many east Portlanders’ own homes. Even though I work for OHSU, I don’t consider that a good thing. My bike is in the street 2 hours a day, at OHSU 9 hours a day, and on the east side 13 hours a day. Despite all the traffic engineers and valets working to make my experience better, my bike is still statistically at risk most of the time. We need to get more innovative and ambitious with residential and downtown parking.

If we can devise a theft-free solution in one hub, I believe it is possible to meet that goal elsewhere.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

well said! I’d love to see bike shops, businesses, and events offering free bike valet. don’t have to hire a bunch of extra people, just use a vacant space and existing staff people. if we get parked bike out of the street and inside it will reduce thefts 100% for those using it. last night my girlfriends lights and handlebar grips were stolen while she was parked outside PSU. It sucks and makes people not want to ride their bike. What does, is arriving to a place that appreciates how you got there.

John Landolfe
Guest

Eesh! Sorry to hear that. In my years living and attending class right there on campus I somehow lucked out. My issues with theft have mostly happened on the east side. I think, “existing staff,” is one of Go By Bike’s key innovations and what can make valet surprisingly cheaper than traditional secure bike parking.

daisy
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daisy

I can’t say precisely how gender relates to bike theft, but I am concerned that it seems like the task force is comprised entirely of men (and perhaps all white men?).

But, JM, I was struck, when you chased down your stolen bike, how unlikely it would have been for a woman to make that same choice. I realize many men also wouldn’t have climbed through the hole in the fence. But bicycling can have additional risks for women not typically experienced by men. Women cyclists often make different choices about when and where to ride based on personal safety. And while men can certainly be victims of violent crimes, a stolen bike can leave women vulnerable in a way that isn’t commonly experienced by men.

Bike theft is a genderless crime — bikes aren’t stolen because they belong to specifically to men or women — but there’s also a growing awareness in the bicycling industry that men often can’t speak for women. We want more women to cycle, but the barriers are often different than for men.

The task force composition seems sensible, and based on the work you all do. I’m not suggesting another additional person be brought in simply as a token. But diversity can bring in perspectives and insight and ideas you didn’t even realize you were missing.

Thanks for stepping into the role of advocate, JM. I hope you’ll consider advocating for some additional voices on your task force.

Chris
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Chris

Great work, Jonathan. Looking forward to hearing more.

Bella Bici
Guest

Jonathan, I could hug and kiss you for the yeoman’s work you’re performed on bike theft. Thank you!!!

After living all over the country and never experiencing bike theft, it took me only one month of living here before my bike’s wheels were stolen. A year later I had another entire bike stolen.

It has left me with a disgusting feeling about one terrible dimension of bikes in Portland. It gets my blood boiling at times at what is tacitly approved.

Decades before, it was actually a crime to be in possession of stolen goods. What has happened to this law?! Stolen goods were called hot goods because you were liable for prosecution if found in your possession.

It seems as if now, one only has to give some dilute excuse of how one came across the property then no punishment or legal threat is pursued. If stolen goods were actually treated like STOLEN</b goods there would be less of a market for them.

And that is a huge, problem… the market is there with impunity.

Mossby Pomegranate
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Mossby Pomegranate

Welcome to America’s Bike Theft Capital.

JV
Guest
JV

Part of this could be solved by a massive (and simple) customer-based campaign. The answer is simply to ask for a receipt when buying any used bike. If the person selling will not provide a handwritten note with their name phone number, and info on bike, assume it is stolen.

If we spread the meme that “bikes sold in Portland without a receipt are stolen”, it will greatly weed out the opportunity to make quick cash by bike thieves. It will also resolve issues where people are worried about buying a bike that could be stolen, as there is at least a small chain of custody established.

SP
Guest
SP

Those look like the two angry dudes I saw in couch park with a stolen bike this summer. I didn’t realize it was stolen until it popped up later on The Bike index I think. I could look it up. Is there a case number for the video I should report to?

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Ummm, I am confused…”who jumped the gun” on the press conference?

Was it the City or BikePortland organizing this event? (Who is “we” in the article?) Or was this a quote from an unnamed city source or just the royal “we”?

I was expecting the article to report to us why it was delayed, as this is a very important topic.

A Designer
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A Designer

Sorry to be jaded, but my guess is that the summit was cancelled because it didn’t address “equity issues” or mental illness or one hundred other excuses why it is justifiable in Portland to steal property, sell it for drugs, and then assault people on their way to work in the morning on the east bank esplanade. I guess this contrary view will be moderated out of existence for everyone’s comfort however. I do believe in Bike Portland and appreciate their work.

SW
Guest
SW

JM. I hope you’ll consider advocating for some additional voices on your task force.
Recommended 7

If Jm will run against Novick in 2016 , that may be an easy choice.

Madison Wellington
Guest

Way to go Jonathan! This is awesome to hear. I was hoping the Press Conference was going to happen, but ah well! I hope we can all stop this problem once and for all!

Evan
Guest
Evan

Thank you Jonathan for working on this issue and asking the community to make it a higher priority.

pedaling with pooch
Guest
pedaling with pooch

I know one of the big blockers to catching bike thieves with stolen goods is that not a lot of people register their bikes on bikeindex.org. What would it take to get the bike shops in town to offer this as a service when you buy your bike? Maybe an additional, nominal fee ($5) and the info is inputted into the index w/your email address for the account. Or, maybe something as simple as providing a card with the model, make and serial number(s) for your bike so you can go and input it yourself. Another capture point would be when bikes are brought in for service or maintenance; asking if bike owners would like to have their bikes registered, if they haven’t already.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Great News!

SW
Guest
SW

“The bike theft database, containing 13,000 records, shows an arrest in about 2 percent of such cases.

The bureau provides an online form for crime victims to report bikes stolen, but those reports “are not reviewed on a regular basis by anyone,” spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson wrote in a recent email.”

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/02/bike_theft.html#incart_hbx#incart_best-of