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

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.


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.

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