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Bike Theft Task Force launched: Now let’s get to work!

Posted by on March 31st, 2015 at 2:06 pm

bttflead

A local blogger speaking at today’s press conference.
(Photo by Caesar Ursic)

Today we officially launched the Portland Bike Theft Task Force.

It’s been quite a journey to get to this point…

bttf-logo

Regular BikePortlanders know we’ve been documenting this city’s bike theft problem for almost 10 years. Who remembers our May 2005 story, Bike theft: What should we do about it? Yes, we’ve been frustrated by this issue for nearly a decade now.

That’s why today felt so good. We actually took another big step toward doing something about it.

Back in October, following a meeting with Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland Police Bureau Chief Larry O’Dea, we decided enough is enough and began a concerted effort to raise the profile of the issue using the most powerful tool I could think of: this blog.

We started publishing the Bike Theft Chronicles to highlight the absurd, helpless, brazen, tragic, and outrageous stories we hear on almost a weekly basis. After meeting a Portland Police Bureau office who was just as frustrated as we were, we declared battle against bike theft.

Then we went offline and hosted a community summit that brought everyone to the table. That summit helped cement our partnership with the Police Bureau and ultimately led to creation of the Bike Theft Task Force.

At the press conference today, I stood on the steps of City Hall, feeling very proud to be a part of this effort, while I listened to Chief O’Dea say the following words (emphases mine):

bttf-odea

“I am challenging the community to
come up with a plan that will reduce
reported bike thefts by 50% in 5 years.”
PPB Chief Larry O’Dea.
(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)

“The level of frustration around this issue is at an all-time high. We’re hearing from the community and from our officers on the street that thieves are becoming more brazen by the day. City-issued bicycle racks have been sawed through with power tools and people are having bicycles taken right off their car racks and porches. 

This cannot continue. Portland is a cycling city. Thousands of people depend on their bicycles every single day to get them to work, the store, school, and so on.

Today is the day we as a community get organized to address this problem head-on. 

On that note, I am issuing a challenge: I am challenging the community to come up with a plan that will reduce reported bike thefts by 50% in 5 years.”

Here’s another excerpt from O’Dea’s remarks that are important to me:

“While the bureau will host the Task Force, I want to make it clear that this has been community-driven effort from the start and it will continue to be an equal partnership with the public.”

This isn’t the PPB’s task force. It’s our task force.

As for the challenge, standing on the steps with me today was an impressive show of force that gives me confidence we can meet it: Assistant Chief Bob Day, PPB Commander Sara Westbrook, Sgt. Mike Leasure, and Officers David Sanders and David Bryant from Central Precinct, PBOT Director Leah Treat, Danielle Booth from PBOT’s Active Transportation Division, Project 529 CEO J Allard, BikeIndex.org’s Co-owner Bryan Hance, and others.

The Core Team of the task force includes myself, Sanders, Bryant, Booth, Allard, and Hance. In the next month we will develop a plan to give us a clear strategy to tackle bike theft in Portland from all the angles. Broadly speaking, our effort will focus on prevention, enforcement, education, and collaboration. Don’t be fooled by today’s media coverage, our effort goes way beyond just another city website with a bunch of how-tos and tips. We have some awesome things up our sleeves and we can’t wait to work on them with you.

And I mean you.

As the Chief said, this is a community challenge and this is not your typical bureaucratic task force (I wouldn’t be on it if it was). Working with volunteers (like you!) who want to help fight bike theft is one of our top priorities.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach this point. I’ve spent nearly 10 years documenting this problem and I’m really looking forward to documenting the solutions.

Feel free to ask me questions in the comments. And stay tuned!

— For more on today’s press conference, check out all the local media coverage, photos from the PPB, a statement from Mayor Hales, the new Bike Theft Task Force page on the PPB website, and PBOT’s new page full of resources at tips at EndBikeTheft.org.

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

72 Comments
  • Middle of the Road guy March 31, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Well done!

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • invisiblebikes March 31, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Jonathan, I am all for it and commend you on the work you’ve done to try and get this issue to the forefront.

    We all know where the thieves are, when they are there and what they do to all the bikes they take… which makes this whole thing feel like a bad cop sitcom or a 5th grade boys and girls dance. “Their right over there, we see them, they are taunting us but nobody wants to go ask for the first dance!”

    I think a good first move for PPD to solidify its commitment to the community would be to go to those camps and chop shops and “clean” house!

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    • Pliny March 31, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      The problem with busting up the camps is that while we all know the bikes are stolen, that’s not enough to do blanket seizures. What would help is making sure everybody reports stolen bikes as quickly as possible with serial numbers.

      If a cop can stop at a camp to do a welfare check and sees serial numbers in plain sight that pop as stolen when searched, the situation changes a bit.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • davemess April 1, 2015 at 6:37 pm

        There is always the fact that most often these “chop shops” are illegally camping.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 31, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      invisiblebikes,

      The PPB has already done this. Quite a bit actually. Sanders and Bryant often talk to people who live on the street and sometimes end up confiscating bikes, parts, and bike theft tools from them. In my eyes, the PPB has already solidified their commitment to the community. We’re way beyond that step. Now we are working with them – through this Task Force – to lay out a plan to take things to the next level.

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      • invisiblebikes March 31, 2015 at 3:25 pm

        I think my point is being missed, it doesn’t matter so much if the PPD goes by the camps and finds a bike or 3 to confiscate.
        What I am saying is making a point to the thieves, make them feel unwelcome, become a thorn in their sides, make it so they can’t hide!

        Regular patrols through the camps and along the bike routes, be there when they don’t expect it, show up randomly and often… none of these things need to produce arrests or confiscation they just need to be in their faces all the time. which will eventually make them leave.

        I’m in no way suggesting they harass the homeless or that we don’t need to reach out to our homeless populous and treat them better. but the reality is that transients, druggies and vagrants make up the majority (or at least a large portion) of bike thieves in Portland and hide within the “homeless” vail of anonymity.
        If PPD wants to put a big dent in bike theft… then they need to put a big dent in the transient population.

        Don’t get me wrong I am on board with what ever the task force plans, I’m just adding my suggestion based on what I see every day riding.

        Recommended Thumb up 10

        • scott March 31, 2015 at 4:35 pm

          You are advocating citizen harassment by the police. While there are lawbreakers in these areas, they have rights. Also, for the law abiding in these areas, there will be little discrimination. I don’t think this is actually what you want. Please reconsider.

          Also, the police are the exactly wrong people to “put a dent” in the homeless population.

          Recommended Thumb up 12

          • J_R March 31, 2015 at 5:43 pm

            Let’s support the police in putting a dent in the thieving population.

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      • JV March 31, 2015 at 4:52 pm

        One of the key solutions is to make bikes less of a fungible asset. That means making it a little harder to buy/sell bikes without any paperwork, and creation of community expectations. Increased geo-tracking and reducing the number of willing buyers for sketchy bikes should be part of the taskforce, which then could have a feedback effect that stealing bikes is just not (as) worth it.

        Also, I think you missed a great opportunity with the logo to have a bike where the wheels are shaped like handcuffs.

        Recommended Thumb up 8

        • Mike April 1, 2015 at 12:50 pm

          Very often, the thieves sell the bikes on the street to other people or have a fence that takes them out of state. How do you put a selling restriction on a bike thief?

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      • George H. April 1, 2015 at 7:55 am

        As I rode down the Eastside Esplanade last night, I saw the usual folks under I-5, next to the Burnside Bridge (inside the area ringed by fences with holes deliberately cut into them, and “no trespassing” signs everywhere), and bikes and parts strewn around Them.

        Why does it take a task force to figure out how to put an end to this? There’s many existing laws (notably trespassing and the camping ban) that can be used to discourage the people stripping stolen bikes in the bum camps.

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    • Oregon Mamacita April 2, 2015 at 10:18 am

      The missing piece is too controversial to touch, but here goes: some of the downtown churches keep the crust punks, the travellers, the lifestyle homeless, the tweekers and the junkies well fed. More responsible behavior on the part on churches (Mission Gospel will explain how to provide services) could discourage the camps.

      The homeless population is many populations, and its time we protected
      our old resident alcoholics from younger, more dangerous bike-stealing bums. Cutting down on bike theft & stopping irresponsible, amateur
      programs who are way over their heads could accidentally help the folks who are most oppressed by bike thieves- the peaceful homeless.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • John Lascurettes March 31, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. This is great.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Granpa March 31, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I too commend this effort to diminish the impact of this pervasive crime. The stolen bicycle has become the economic driver and currency that supports criminal communities that blight our neighborhoods. We know the means to catch bike thieves, tracking chips, hidden cameras, bait bikes and dedicated, committed and persistent law enforcement. In the article I did not see anything about engagement by the DA or Justice Department. My concern is that the thieves will be caught, spend the night in jail where they will get a warm place to sleep and 3 squares, then be back on the street with the arrest and jail really being no punishment for the crime or deterrent to repeating the crime.

    I expect this thread to echo with empathy for the woebegone homeless. I know for a fact that not all homeless are criminals (except perhaps for unauthorized camping) , but the ones who are bike thieves have chosen a path that should result in justice. Empathy can follow.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • ricochet April 1, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Plight should not be an excuse to perpetuate crime. Crime should not be an excuse to hate the suffering.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Granpa April 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm

        ? Those who suffer or the condition of suffering?

        Anyway no mention of hate was anywhere in my post, now that you mention it, bicycle thieves are not getting my love, and if the criminal justice system delivers them punishment when they are found guilty of crime, then I approve.

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  • pixelgate March 31, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    > On that note, I am issuing a challenge: I am challenging the community to come up with a plan that will reduce reported bike thefts by 50% in 5 years.”

    Easy, sentence bike thieves to very stiff prison terms. You’d lower the theft issue by a lot more than 50% too, but this will never happen because of liberal policy and people wanting to appear forgiving and lenient. Portlanders tend to shame anyone who supports stiff prison sentences because they don’t want to come off like monsters, but we have to realize this is an epidemic that affects more and more people by the day. Enough with the kumbaya.

    You don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to masquerade as someone who ‘has a hard time’ with stiff prison sentences for thieves while also demanding that thievery magically decline. Thieves have no place in society.

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    • eddie March 31, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      There is no evidence that longer prison terms deter any kind of crime. The USA jails more of it’s citizenry than any other country in the world and it has no effect on the crime rate, at all.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • concerned1 May 1, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      I have a neighbor whom doesn’t have a job yet brings a different stolen bike to His house at least every couple days. He rides a $500.00 mountain bike which was white when He tore in His driveway with it and threw it inside His house, but the bike was painted black the next day. All of this has been reported to the bicycle task force but They aren’t going to do anything about these criminals. This task force is only to be public image Band-Aid for law enforcement. I used to have a positive image regarding the police dept. but have lost faith.

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  • Hazel March 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    There’s a chop shop not far from my house. They seem pretty brazen too and have their garage door open all the time. Are there specific officers I can contact about this?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 31, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Hazel,

      Yes. We have an email address set up that I recommend you sending the information to.

      BTTF@portlandoregon.gov (that’s BTTF for Bike Theft Task Force).

      This email goes directly to Officers Dave Sanders and Bryant at Central and they will make sure your tip gets handled by the right person.

      If you send in the tip, please report back and let us know how it was handled.

      Recommended Thumb up 10

  • Pete March 31, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Excellent work – bike theft is a problem everywhere and Portland can continue to demonstrate leadership that others can learn from.

    Really cool logo BTW… can we buy the jersey?? 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mick O March 31, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    pixelgate
    Easy, sentence bike thieves to very stiff prison terms. You’d lower the theft issue by a lot more than 50% too,

    I’m not against very stiff prison terms because I am liberal or lenient. I’m against them because they don’t work and I am sick of paying 1) to incarcerate people and 2) sick of paying for what they do after that incarceration ruins their chances to pay taxes along with me.

    Recommended Thumb up 18

    • scott March 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Here here.

      Prisons are there to create a cheap labor force that can be exploited by huge corporations. Rehabilitation is the lowest priority in prisons currently and that they make money while getting tax money is the most infuriating thing since Goodwill’s business model.

      Recommended Thumb up 11

      • joebobpdx March 31, 2015 at 5:10 pm

        There, there. I wonder if you have direct experience with these institutions or if you have any evidence to support this very inflammatory claim. I do have some ongoing involvement with the jail/prison/parole system and have seen nothing that supports this claim in Oregon.

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        • scott March 31, 2015 at 5:15 pm

          It’s the 13th amendment to the constitution. Start there and you can do the whole history.

          Check out UNICOR and FPI after you read some of the history.

          Recommended Thumb up 3

        • scott March 31, 2015 at 5:16 pm

          Oh also, I have never been incarcerated. I am a law-abiding, tax paying college graduate that has had a job of some sort since I was 13 years old.

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  • scott March 31, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    “I am challenging the community to come up with a plan that will reduce
    reported bike thefts by 50% in 5 years.” -PPB Chief Larry O’Dea

    Ok. Well since the onus is on us, I will also redirect my tax money to things I think more fitting than useless cops and a dog and pony show task force.

    I only hope this can be as successful as the War on Forest Fire or The Drug War. I hope in five years we can look forward to have a Bike Theft Czar. It should be someone making high six figures that has not ridden a bike in decades. Then, we can also get private contractors in on the action so they can bid on huge contracts and produce results that are hard to even call negligible. The money can just keep going in circles, with only the victims of bike theft never really getting a taste of the $$$.

    Government in “action”.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 31, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks scott,

      Sounds like we shouldn’t bother asking you to volunteer for anything then?

      And on that note… Maybe you and I have a different idea of who “the community” is. To me, community includes the police. Why create walls between us? And as you can see in the article, the members of that “community” who have responded to the Chief’s challenge by creating a Task Force just so happens to include 2 police officers.

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      • scott March 31, 2015 at 4:57 pm

        I volunteer for things I believe in and none of them have had anything to do with cops. I see cops in my volunteer endeavors. I know some. Yet I do not feel a respect for them that I definitely feel people in their positions should earn and warrant. I do imagine there was a time when the majority of police could be respected, but that was before I was born.

        I would agree that we have a different idea of the community. I would put everyone, people in the camps included, but the police in my vision of community. I just feel more kinship with someone who struggles in America than someone who dons body armor and grabs an assault rifle when the struggle boils over and organizes in the streets. That’s me though and I have no problems with differing opinions, or expressing mine, be it contradictory to the topic.

        The only way that this task force will reduce bike theft by 50% in 5 years is if ridership falls by 50% in 5 years. Do the numbers nationwide and see what “task force(s)” you come up with that have provable value in what problems they were formed to address.

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        • Mike April 1, 2015 at 12:57 pm

          Wow…just…wow….

          Your attitude and feelings towards your fellow man and woman make me sick and angry.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

          • scott April 1, 2015 at 2:56 pm

            Can you explain this?

            I feel enmity towards police only and thought I made that pretty clear. The only reason I am not involving in this (the task force) is because it is in support of the punitive system that perpetuates homelessness, theft, drug abuse, and general misunderstanding of the ways to fix the problem(s).

            This is exactly like the thinking that we could somehow, as a country, bomb another country into peace.

            I mean the word “force” is right there in the name. This will not help, this will perpetuate.

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  • Matthew March 31, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Frankly I hope there is a “Batman” out there that can “take things to the next level”. For reals.

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  • wkw March 31, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Why gps every bike in town? How about a push for electronic gps bracelets for these thieves and mandatory parole officer report ins.
    This year was ridiculous, with a major chop shop on the Rivergate trail, one encampment had at least 30 wheels in plain site.
    Also, if the district atty’s don’t dirty their hands with this, you won’t put a dent in the crime orgy.
    The police and DA have to bring resources to bear. They tuned down the transient encampments downtown, so what lessons where learned there – not all the transients were displaced, imo.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Dwaine Dibbly March 31, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    I hope things get better, but I’m pretty discouraged about the situation. I hear the talk but what we need is action. The mild winter means that a lot of the usual suspects never left town. I’m predicting an active summer bike theft season.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • eddie March 31, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    What I don’t see here are any suggestions for positive, non punitive ways to deal with the chop shop economy.

    Perhaps there could be some incentive for someone to turn in a bike frame to have the serial # run, and the frame at least returned to the owner? One could get a free bike frame or be eligible to build up a bike at bike farm or CCC…

    Another idea might be to start a program to stamp registry numbers on components. That way if someone is selling a “hot” component online or elsewhere it would be obviously stolen and better business to return to the owner.

    There are obvious complications to the above ideas, I mean, people who run chop shops can easily file off frame serial #s and it might be a bit of a boondoggle to issue component registry #s.

    But, just the same, it might be worth the effort.

    thanks

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • eddie March 31, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    One simple observation, teach people to be careful where and how they lock their bikes. I haven’t had a bike stolen in 15 years in Portland, and I’m a very prolific bike rider. I’ve accomplished this by always locking my bike in the open, in daylight, where I can check on it, and never more than a couple of hours if there’s any way a thief could get at it. Never had a problem, and I spend plenty of time downtown. Also, the “blingier” your bike looks, the more theft- prone. Just sayin…

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • J_R April 1, 2015 at 6:46 am

      Several years ago, I had a bike, locked with moderately heavy chain, stolen from my workplace. The bike was parked in a covered bike rack area within 30 feet of the main entrance of the building with a staffed information booth in the lobby. The theft occurred between 8am and noon.

      There are two types of cyclists: those who’ve had bikes stolen and those who will.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • ed April 1, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      You kind of diminish credibility by saying you always lock up in daylight and only where you can check often. While this my be fine for sport or hobby cyclists if you actually use your bike for transportation there’s not a solution for others in your argument. If you’re in a downtown theater do you get up from your seat every few minutes and go out to check on your bike? How about evenings at a restaurant? Do you go out after dark at all, or perhaps use your car for that?

      There’s a lot to be said for carefully choosing a spot, what lock you use and how you use it – but this isn’t a true solution for many.

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  • Naomi March 31, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I think this is a great step in the right direction. I hope people keep in mind that there won’t be a silver bullet and all is well, but will have to be a multi-threaded approach. We need a giant brainstorming session to start!

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  • Chris Anderson March 31, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Bait bikes seem like a good way to track down the most active thieves.

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  • Tait March 31, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    What’s the scope here? A bicycle theft task force isn’t going to solve the social inequalities that are the underlying drivers of this sort of crime, but what about public secure parking infrastructure? Is that within the purview of the task force? (How much has been spent on smart parks downtown?) Can the task force influence police patrol priorities? Even if they do, what happens to the people caught, and will it do long-term good or is this just catch-and-release? Is there enough employer and business involvement that we could lobby for less restrictions on taking a bicycle inside an office/building with you? I look forward to hearing more about what you’ve got up your sleeve.

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  • Tom April 1, 2015 at 1:06 am

    How about a series of bike security parties. Registration booths, bike locking tip demos, security products from local bike stores, micro dots, GPS tracker information, and garage security options (such as Blink).

    Later this year, some better consumer GPS trackers may be coming on the market. It may be time to lay the groundwork for a community based bait bike program whereby bike owners GPS their bike and register them as a official bait bike with the police for the fastest response. When a certain fraction of all bikes are official bait bikes, it just won’t be worth it to steal bikes anymore because the risk will be too high.

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  • Josh April 1, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Ok…you asked us to help and challenged us..now what? How I can help the task force? What’s the plan?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 1, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Hi Josh,

      Thanks for asking! I know the story above was short on details. You can expect more details from us later this week. We are meeting in a few days to prioritize and get our ideas and actions on paper and in motion. I will report back.

      The four areas we are focusing on are: Prevention, enforcement, education, and collaboration.

      Right now we are committed to putting a plan on the Chief’s desk in May. The plan will be our roadmap to meeting his challenge – a 50% reduction in reported bike thefts in 5 years.

      Right now, your job to help the Task Force is to 1) keep sharing your ideas with us here in the comments and via twitter at @ppbbiketheft and 2) stay tuned for marching orders.

      We are excited to activate volunteers and have some cool technology and event ideas in the works that will help us with that.

      Thanks.

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  • Lester Burnham April 1, 2015 at 8:02 am

    But these bike thieves are just trying to live.

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    • ricochet April 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

      And that excuses theivery?

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      • Lester Burnham April 1, 2015 at 1:54 pm

        Sarcasm?

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  • Eric April 1, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Who wants to volunteer to go under-cover to infiltrate the bike theft underground? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, would be to find out where the source of the money is. Who is buying these bikes and where are the bikes ending up?
    This mission would require you to adopt a pit bull puppy and live on the streets for several months while you gain the trust of the ring leaders. You should have some bike chopping skills so you can really get involved. Trace the source of the money and we will find our king pins. And I have a feeling its not Leroy Parsons. I would suspect some legitimate business owners are fencing the higher-end bikes.

    What about geo-tracking a bait bike? Embed a GPS device inside the frame (we have plenty of frame builders that can accommodate that) that pings location and watch the bike move around and see where it ends up? Maybe a batch of 10 or 20 bikes. See where they go.

    And the most effective way to reduce bike thefts of all….LOCK UP YOUR BIKE! and DONT LEAVE IT LOCKED UP OVERNIGHT ON THE STREET!

    Thats all I got…..

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  • Peter R April 1, 2015 at 8:50 am

    My once again politically incorrect (for PDX area anyways) statement. There is a direct correlation between the “housing challenged” and theft, especially the fairly lax attitude towards “camps” around here. In order to lower theft (bike, auto break-ins, burglary, etc) there needs to be some sort of effort to help these groups, remove them, or some combination of both.
    Sure there are professional bike theft rings, but to deny that the homeless camps are involved in crime is sticking your head in the sand. Not all of them, I’m not going to generalize, but as others have already pointed out, there are obvious chop shops right in plain sight near the “camps”.

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    • Todd Hudson April 1, 2015 at 10:55 am

      I’ve learned that enforcing the law when it comes to these camps just won’t happen, because someone always gets offended by it.

      The chopshops under I-5 spiraled out of control months ago. Known criminals/sex offenders worked openly there; they set up stripping work benches and concealed areas with tarps. Little was done about it until last week. Even with the chopshop camp on Madison removed, the piles of bikes and parts are already reconstituting one block north.

      I don’t expect this will change, even with this new task force.

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      • jeff April 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm

        they’re already forming again under the Hawthorne. saw 2 camps with bikes there this morning. cleaning them out every 6 months isn’t going to do anything. permanent, daily enforcement.

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    • Welsh Pete April 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

      So where do you send the people who are in these camps? You are aware that there are dozens of over-burdened agencies working on this issue everyday right? From street outreach to transitional housing, A/D programs to shelters. You can’t be that naive…

      Further criminalizing homelessness is not the solution to bike theft.

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  • Brent April 1, 2015 at 9:09 am

    As has been suggested before, I think we should strongly encourage stores from selling ineffective locking devices. I think many bike shops already do not sell cable locks, but I think the community, cities, and other public and private entities could put pressure on local big box stores like Walmart and Fred Meyer to either not sell cable locks at all or display them far away from their bike merchandise, so the casual, uninformed person doesn’t buy one thinking it’s enough. Making bike theft less easy and casual should help reduce bike theft.

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    • Lester Burnham April 1, 2015 at 9:19 am

      Yeah some of these locks suck. But let’s not put this on the victims and steer away from the real problem.

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      • Brent April 1, 2015 at 9:40 am

        I’m not blaming the victims for using poor locks. The real problem we are trying to solve is bike theft. If we can make bike theft harder by encouraging most locked bikes to be locked with a good lock, that will reduce bike theft.

        Bike theft cannot be reduced with just one action. This is a small and relatively easy suggestion that will hopefully produce a small but real reduction in bike theft. I imagine most stores would be willing to stop selling these lock with the right amount of encouragement from the right people. I don’t think a sweeping “ban” or other government action would be necessary. I think most stores don’t want to sell bad products. Educating store owners and local sales managers is a much easier task than on-going education for every current and potential future bike rider. Not that education wouldn’t also be good, but I think my suggestion is workable now because it is relatively easy, cheap, and fast.

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        • Bill April 4, 2015 at 9:01 pm

          I recently helped my local gym cut orphaned locks and cables that were obstructing their bike racks. Of the 30+ u-locks and cables I dealt with none took longer than 10-15 seconds to cut. A good cable lock might take 5 seconds to cut, with a Kryptonite u-lock taking 10 seconds. I doubt that advocating the sale of cable locks is going to impact bike theft.

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  • SW April 1, 2015 at 9:36 am

    I’m noticing tents cropping up along SpringWater again, suspect chop shops will soon follow.

    The vast majority of bikes that I see in them (albeit at 12 mph) are cheapo Target/Walmart MB’s. It appears that decent road bikes are kept intact and sold as-is.

    I think the solution to stopping the theft epidemic is to stop the end of the line in the theft cycle.

    Police the Craig’s ads. Investigate the shadier ones. Just 2 days ago there was an obvious one with a nice TREK roadbike , in fine shape ..for $85.

    If the MB’s are being chopped for metal , where is that going ? The metal recycle places HAVE to be part of the solution. Really, if 1 one guy comes in over & over with 10 frames each time, to sell for scrap, it’s gotta set off alarms.

    I once worked in a hock shop. Every buy (no matter what the price) had to be held 10 days and a ticket with the sellers ID inscribed had to be made. Police came around weekly to double check before items could be released. Require ID for metal sellers.

    Get the metal recycle places involved. Take away the carrot.

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    • Gary April 1, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Agree with dealing with the end of the line in the cycle. Someone made the well-informed observation previously that it’s highly unlikely metal scrapping is playing much of a role in the demand side, due to the very low value one would get out of a scrapped frame. Not to say they don’t get scrapped, but that’s probably a “byproduct” of the operation, rather than driving it.

      Find a way to police second-hand sales. I’m not sure exactly what that is. Put the onus on buyers to check reports/registry and strictly enforce receipt/possession of stolen goods laws? I’m not sure how that would be enforced.

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  • Chris Anderson April 1, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Want to cut bike theft in half? Introduce a Universal Basic Income: http://davidswanson.org/node/410

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  • SW April 1, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I used to stop at the flea market on Stark (just across the Gresham line).

    There was one vendor with his own bike chop/rebuild shop in the back. His prices on used bikes were too good to be true.

    We watched seedy/meth head appearing guys bring bikes to him and leave with cash. It pissed off the honest vendors and they complained to management to no avail. They also complained to police doing walk throughs (to find counterfeit DVD’s ?) , who were also uninterested.

    Everybody has to get on board to get the thievery epidemic slowed/stopped. Even the police.

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  • Drew April 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    A big reason bikes are stolen is that there is rarely a secure place to park them.

    When a major renovation was underway at a local supermarket, I saw the manager and asked him about putting in some dedicated bike parking. Well lit, perhaps caged, located in front where people walk by, and with spaces for cargo bikes. I got an impatient smile from him that said it would never be considered. The final result was typical. A sine wave rack off in a dark lonely corner.

    I imagine a scheduled meeting with a couple of well dressed and articulate bike parking task members, especially with the support of a uniformed police officer, could produce much better results!

    It’s considered normal for me to drive my truck to the store, burning a quart of gas to get a quart of milk, all enabled by “free” parking that costs the store 10s of thousands in property and maintenance. Crazy when you think about it.

    Imagine a store removing 2 prime car spaces to install comprehensive secure bike parking.
    I think it would take quite a bit of courage to do this for most retail outlets. This kind of forward thinking is an efficient way of attracting business, and the outlay for infrastructure would be a lot cheaper per customer.

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  • Angel York April 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    What happened to the People’s Republic of Portland!!??

    Universal Basic Income. Put your energy and focus into solving the problem, not the symptom. This is a red herring, guys.

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  • Asher Atkinson April 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I appreciate the recent work you’ve done drawing attention to bike thefts, applaud the creation to the bike theft task force, and agree, as you say, it’s our task force. But recently I was wrongly accused of having a stolen bike and wanted to share the story with you before rallying the vigilantes.

    On Friday I had a doctor’s appointment in the medical complex by Good Samaritan. The entrance I use doesn’t have a nearby bike rack, so I locked my beloved Lemond Poprad to the court yard railing. I returned to find someone had put another lock on my bike and left a note on the back of a business card saying that I need to go see him in his office. My thought was a facilities minder was going to lecture me about where I’d parked, but the suite was a busy doctors office and the name on the business card was an RN.

    I patiently stood in line for an available receptionist, then presented the card. I got an odd vibe and was told me to wait. A short time later a guy bigger than me came out, firmly shook my had, and said he needed to talk to me about my bike. We stepped into the hall and he began grilling me about where I got it and insisted it was his.

    I was a little taken a back because I’m a 55 year old getting my prostate checked over lunch. I’m a professional, a don’t own a car, I ride every day, I’m a BTA member, I have a fleet of bikes, I’ve been a victim of thefts, etc. In short, the last person who would steal, or ride a stolen bike.

    But I’m also a poor record keeper and began to get concerned but about what was happening. We walked out to my bike and guy said I was lying, that the bike still had his crank brother pedals, his fenders, even his bell.

    When did I buy it? Where did I buy it? If I bought it new, why was it now a fixed gear?

    He said he’d have to photo my drivers license and confirm my phone number by calling it before unlocking the bike to look underneath at the serial number. I complied because it didn’t want to involve the police. I flipped it over and he took a photo of the serial number tag that was fortunately still attached.

    Begrudgingly, he gave up and said he’d check his records at home. As I pedaled back to work I got more troubled by the encounter and accusation, so I stopped by Bike Gallery to see if they could reproduce my receipt and with the serial number. Indeed, the printer spit out my proof from seven years ago.

    Back at the office, I realized I had his number from the phone verification, so I sent him an image of the receipt with this message:

    “I stopped by Bike Gallery and had them reproduce my receipt paired with the serial number. Even includes the fenders. Sorry about your theft but this should prove it is my bike and I’m the original owner. Good luck finding yours.”

    And he replied:
    “Ok thanks. You have way more proof than I could produce otherwise. It’s just so odd we have the same decals on identical fenders, egg beaters, bell, bontrager. … But I’ll let it go. Thanks for rolling with it. Be safe”

    I pretty much laughed it off, but when I shared the story with workmates and my wife, all concluded the guy was out of line, and, at very least, his “I’ll let it go” should have been a sincere apology. And I’m still not convinced he has accepted that I’m not riding his bike.

    The more I thought about it, several concerns came to mind. While I tried my best to keep the situation civil, there was definitely elevated adrenaline and testosterone in play and things could have escalated. And what if the police had gotten involved? Now even more people are wasting their time. And what if I couldn’t produce proof of ownership? Are we going to be dueling with smartphones trying to produce old photos on Flickr? Or what if I appeared less ‘respectable’ and my accuser was a doctor at the hospital? I trust the legal system teases out truth in the end, but the process can be more about hassle and intimidation.

    None of this should dissuade us from confronting the problem of bike theft, but in the end most dear bikes are just a bunch of commodities bolted together and I have some qualms about moving directly at perceived thieves. Beyond prevention, it is a difficult problem to solve. My experience reinforced the basics. Keep your bike locked, and if you’ve got a fancy one, keep it insured. And if your bike gets stolen, try your best to get over it and get another. And when you do buy a new bike or parts, buy them new, or from a well vetted seller.

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  • Frank April 5, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Somehow the consequences of getting caught have to be a deterrent. Onerous volunteer time (which they won’t do)? Jail time (expensive )? Apologizing in person to the person they stole it from and being required to listen to a lecture from the owner (unpleasant for owner too)? Future harassment as campers etc. if they have been caught doing this (yes, there actually are times when harassment is justified and called for, IMO)?

    I’m struggling to see the deterrent/consequence that would have them think twice. Maybe jail time is best. Also, could an ordinance or two make it easier to prosecute?

    I like the idea of bait bikes – easy way to find them. But so what if there is no consequence they fear/hate when they are caught?

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  • Welsh Pete April 6, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I work with homeless young people and cycle to do so everyday. I have known small-time bike thieves and others who were likely a part of organized rings. I have had a bike stolen by one of them and would never excuse a theft of any kind. Its an issue that need addressing for sure but I fear this could just be another excuse for criminalizing homelessness and heavy-handed police response to people sleeping outside. I can’t offer any meaningful solutions unfortunately, other than to say that bike theft really is a small part of giant problem and perhaps should be considered in this context before we go in guns-blazing.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 6, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Welsh Pete (and others),

      As a Core Team member of the Portland Bike Theft Task Force I can assure you that we are not “going in guns-blazing.”

      Since we started this conversation we have put sensitivity around people who live on the streets first and foremost.

      For people who say we should focus on the root problems (poverty, drug use, homelessness, and so on), I would encourage you to see this effort as a huge addition to the existing coalitions and social services that are indeed focusing on those root causes/issues. The Bike Theft Task Force is not ignorant of this dynamic… We are adding resources to helping the effort.

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  • Welsh Pete April 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Good to hear and thanks for the response. I was reading through some of the commentary on all the bike-theft stories and was a tad concerned by some of the reaction but perhaps should not have equated that with the ‘Task-force’s’ intent.

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  • Welsh Pete April 6, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Last thing on this… You say this coalition is a ‘huge addition to the existing coalitions and social services…’ Have the four agencies that make up Portland’s the Homeless Youth Continuum been included in any of this yet?

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  • Heather April 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I’d like to request an update on the Bicycle Theft Task Force. As the proud new owner of a ridiculously expensive bike (for me, at least), this issue is constantly on my mind. I say a little prayer every time I lock up my bike at a bike rack…and breathe a sincere sigh of relief when I find it where I left it. Even in my own locked garage…I think I’m going to develop an ulcer.

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