Oregon bill would make stolen bike location info probable cause for search warrant

Edwards for Web
Senator Chris Edwards.

Eugene area State Senator Chris Edwards wants to make it easier to go after after bike thieves. His Senate Bill 861 would require a judge to include “electronic location information” of a stolen bicycle to be considered probable cause when issuing a search warrant.

The bill would add the following language to existing Oregon Revised Statute 133.155:

(5)(a) A judge shall consider electronic location information, indicating that a bicycle reported as stolen is located in the place to be searched as described in the warrant affidavit, as probable cause that the place to be searched contains evidence concerning the commission of a criminal offense.

(b) As used in this subsection, “electronic location information” means location infor- mation obtained from an electronic location tracking device.


We spoke with Sen. Edwards yesterday to learn more about the impetus for this bill.

“It’s been frustrating to see how much bike theft there is here in Oregon… Until bike thieves believe there’s a chance they’ll get caught, the problem isn’t going to improve.”
— Sen. Edwards

Edwards has been a victim of bike theft twice. The first time, in 2008, the thief got away. Then just two years ago he chased a would-be thief out of his garage with a baseball bat. While those incidents make him sensitive to bike theft as an issue, Edwards told us they weren’t what motivated him to introduce the bill.

According to Edwards the bill came out of a conversation with employees of a Eugene bike shop. “They were telling me how one of their co-workers at the shop had his bike stolen. It had a tracking device on it so they called the police and told them the exact house where the bike was tracked to.” Unfortunately, Edwards continued, “The police said they couldn’t do anything because they have no probably cause. ‘We can’t just go into someone’s house or ask for a search warrant based only on your word,’ they told him.”

Edwards introduced SB 861 in part to “start a conversation between law enforcement personnel and the bike community about what common practice is in situations like this” and to find out if the existing law offers enough clarity around this issue.

With the new technology and growing use of GPS and other tracking devices, it’s unlikely that law enforcement agencies around the state are all on the same page as to how to deal with this. Everyone we hear from gets excited about the potential of “bait bike” programs and the use of GPS to track stolen bikes; but no one has formalized what to actually do if a bike gets stolen and is successfully tracked down.

Like many people who are getting involved in the fight against bike theft, Edwards has simply had enough. “It’s been frustrating to see how much bike theft there is here in Oregon. The problem is so rampant and there doesn’t seem to be a strategy to take it on,” he said.

“Until bike thieves believe there’s a chance they’ll get caught, the problem isn’t going to improve.”

Edwards was pleased to hear about our fledgling effort to create a Bike Theft Task Force with the Portland Police Bureau. He hasn’t had time to work on the bill yet, but hopes round up partners and people to testify at a hearing in the next few weeks.

The bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by fellow Eugene Senator — and frequent bicycle rider — Floyd Prozanski. So far no hearing is scheduled, but we are tracking this bill and will keep you updated.

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