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Portland firefighters saw through lock to rescue bike from would-be thief

Posted by on July 20th, 2015 at 2:52 pm

firelead

Still from video. Watch it below.

The “jaws of death” have given a Portland woman’s bike new life.

Last week Erin Goldwater noticed someone had put a U-lock around her bike while she was at work — and she says it was done intentionally by a thief who planned to steal her bike. The incident occurred at NW 18th and Irving.

Here’s what happened, according to an email we got from Erin this morning:

Someone had locked their bike to the pole and to my bike. As I got closer, it was very obvious this was no accident. The other guy (I saw him while he was struggling to lock up his bike, but I was busy working so I couldn’t to go out and check on him) used a brand new tiny Kryptonite lock to secure his old, rusty, beat-up bike to mine. His bike was jammed up to mine yet there was an open bike rack 10 yards away. It was completely intentional.

According to Bryan Hance of Bike Index, it’s not unheard of for bike thieves to do this. “I think it’s very uncommon, but crafty,” says Hance. The thieves hope the person is forced to leave their bike overnight so they can come back under cover of darkness and steal it, or strip the parts off of it.

In Erin’s case, she knew of this potential and was determined to not leave the bike overnight, so she called the Portland Police Bureau non-emergency line (503-823-3333). Two officers showed up within ten minutes but they were both unable to remove the lock. They called the Fire Department to come and saw off the rack. It took three firefighters less than a minute.

Here’s the video:

The police confiscated the other bike and Erin got her bike back. “I happily rode my bike home with a huge smile on my face,” she said, “Not only were the cops and firemen super helpful and the whole thing entertaining, but I also got quite the satisfaction out of imagining this fellow returning to the bikes at 3 am prepared to steal my bike only to find them both gone!”

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37 Comments
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    ricochet July 20, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Excellent.

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    pdxfixed July 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Very cool, glad to hear that the police and fire department were so willing to help out!

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    dan July 20, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    I’m curious what steps were taken to confirm ownership of the bike?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      dan,

      I was curious about that too. I think the officers took Erin’s word for it and believed they had probable cause. They also left a note on the pole saying the the bike could be picked up in the property room.

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        John Lascurettes July 20, 2015 at 5:10 pm

        That said, it’s not a bad idea to carry proof of ownership in some way to make situations like this even easier.

        I still have (albeit buried deep) photos in my phone’s album of my pristinely clean bottom bracket serial number and receipt for my newly purchased bike from almost four years ago. I also keep a backup of those same photos on some private albums on Flickr and Google+.

        Very cool story.

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          Pete July 20, 2015 at 6:37 pm

          In my online photo albums I always make it a point to include a shot of the frame (and fork) serial numbers and other unique identifiers.

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          • Bryan Hance
            Bryan Hance July 21, 2015 at 10:50 am

            Just a reminder that everybody can also register their bikes, right now, for free, at BikeIndex.org. Since Portland Police (and a huge amount of pawn shops in OR and WA) are checking BikeIndex data as well when they come into contact with bikes it’s a pretty good idea.

            We’re also registering bikes for free, all summer long, at all the Sunday Parkways. So far we’ve registered about ~400 bikes – and we’ll be back at it this weekend – so COME GET YOUR BIKE REGISTERED people!

            -Bryan, BikeIndex.org

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        DNF July 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm

        And *that* is white female privilege at work.

        Can you imagine if it had been a black male doing the same thing? Someone should try that. Oh wait, they already did. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/watch-white-black-bike-thieves-treated-differently-article-1.1368401

        The results are entirely predictable. Black man (nearly) gets the police called on him, white dude gets ignored, white woman *gets* *help* stealing the bike.

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          Robert Burchett July 22, 2015 at 7:38 am

          More data: I used an angle grinder to remove my lock from my bike (spare key, folks) downtown. Nobody said a word. Yep, white male.

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          Middle of the Road guy July 23, 2015 at 1:39 pm

          Perhaps we can have a black male state what his experience was in this situation, rather than you stating what you assume would happen.

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      El Biciclero July 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      Probably possession of the key to unlock the lock that wasn’t holding two bikes.

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        John Schmidt July 23, 2015 at 10:53 am

        Good point.. but what if someone threw an additional lock only on your bicycle. Without some sort of proof, who’s bike is it now ? Who’s lock gets cut? I mean what is stopping anyone from dressing up nicely, walking out with a U-lock, slapping it on someone’s sweet ride, and then calling someone with an angle grinder to come and grind off the other lock. Who’s to stop them from snapping some pictures of your bike / serial number before hand ? or even a week beforehand, and having it on their cell phone. or even register the the bike themselves online? I guess the only defense is to register it first? but on all online databases ?? interesting.. going to need to think about my own bicycles for sure on this one..

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          Michael Prasuhn July 23, 2015 at 6:07 pm

          Even if you did lock someone else’s bike, you can’t make their lock go around two bikes, which was the situation here.

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          Editz July 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

          Interesting scenario, but I’m betting the average bike thief isn’t going to go to all that trouble to impersonate the identity of the real owner. They’re opportunists, not strategists and would likely want to be as far away from law enforcement as possible.

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    Todd Hudson July 20, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Good to know that PPB and the Fire Bureau will respond to this. Previously, I figured if this happened to me, I’d just come back with my own angle grinder.

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      invisiblebikes July 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      hum… I’m skeptical, I have a feeling you’ll get very mixed responses on future calls.
      I would bet this was a 1 in 10 scenario that the police and/or fire would even show up. And (as archaic as it is) knowing the “good ol boy” mentality of fire departments I think the “damsel in distress” button got pushed. IMHO

      But I am with you I would either come back immediately with a grinder or call a locksmith to come and open it and or cut it off, they typically carry grinders as well to cut if they can’t pick it.

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    wsbob July 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Erin, the bike owner, saw from wherever she was working, saw in the act, the guy that locked his crummy old bike to hers? That’s a cell phone photo moment if there ever was one. Too bad she didn’t have a few seconds to grab a shot.

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      Pete July 20, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Good point, but inherent assumption that she a) has a cell phone with a camera (my wife doesn’t), and b) she had it with her (the cleared environments I sometimes work in disallow me from carrying them, but then again most of them don’t have windows either ;).

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    Brunopdx July 20, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I have pics of me and my bike on 529 Garage on my phone, there’s your proof of ownership right there!

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    Al Dimond July 20, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Yup, thieves definitely want you to leave your bike overnight. They tricked me into doing it by cutting my brake cables… and of course the next morning the whole bike was gone.

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      ethan July 20, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      That reminds me… I’ve had 2 bikes sabotaged in the last year. One time, it looked like someone tried to steal my bike but couldn’t get the ulocks to budge. They “unhooked” the brake cable so it was no longer tight and wouldn’t function.

      The second time, someone deflated my tires nearly completely. I’ve resorted to checking my bike before riding it after I leave it somewhere.

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    Joe Rowe July 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    This exact u lock thing happened to a bike outside the Alberta Public House last week. Another means was used to solve it. I saw it. Time for a reverse sting.

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    Dan July 20, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I love my bike locker. Thank you Go Lloyd!

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    resopmok July 20, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I have my bike registered in the National Bike Registry and keep the card in my wallet. If there’s any question to whom it belongs the answer is very easy to find and prove this way. I really hope this sort of response becomes PPB’s standard for this and similar situations, assuming the victim can give some sort of proof it is in fact theirs.

    Addressing other sabotage concerns, if you can get it unlocked, whether the tires are flat or brake cables are cut, at least you can pop it on the bus or on that back of a car2go with a rack. Though not the most desirable, it is still a way to get it home to safety. I keep a tube and patch kit, pump, and a basic toolkit to repair flats anyway, and if they cut my brake cables.. well, it is a fixed gear after all, it’ll get me home.

    FWIW I also have a chain/tube combo from the seat stays around the seat rails to discourage saddle theft and solid axles on the wheels, but still lock it with a ulock through frame and 1 wheel and a cable through the other wheel. Really a sad state of affairs that we have to go to such lengths just to keep basic transportation from getting ripped off. Can you imagine if you needed 3 keys and a passcode to get in and start your car?

    Anyway, nice to hear about an averted theft, at least there’s one for all those that aren’t.

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      PaulaF July 22, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Sadly, you do need a bunch of security for your car, too. Have had a car stolen from driveway. Now have ignition cut-off alarm system, locked doors, and use the club – even at home.

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      WendP July 22, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Or Car2Go or Lyft in order to get to a bike shop (if it’s a smaller/easier fix like tires), so you can get it fixed up and ride the bike home!

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    Caesar July 20, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    They should have staked it out. At 2AM when the thieves show up and unlock the bike – WHAM! -you ‘unda arrest, bro!

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      9watts July 20, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      except we know how effective that is…haven’t we learned that bike thieves are booked and then released pretty much immediately?

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        caesar July 21, 2015 at 9:09 am

        Yeah, but still – how embarrassing for the thief!

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      Dan M. July 21, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Or WHAM! thief’s unconscious, bro.

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    gutterbunnybikes July 20, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    That wasn’t jaws of life, it was simply a hot saw – or some call them chop saws. Great tool, use one for work all the time.

    If I’m not mistaken the “jaws of life” is a hydraulic spreader tool, not a cutting tool – I don’t know what the “jaws of death” are.

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    Spiffy July 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

    good that she kept her bike in her sight since it was locked to an insecure pole without tamper resistant bolts or a welded top loop…

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    Richard Edge July 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    There’s also Bike Shepherd which offers you both protection and proof of ownership once your bike(s) is registered and you use the QR code labels.

    http://www.bikeshepherd.org/

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    Paul July 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Nice! Off topic—shooting video vertically is just wrong.

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    Eric July 21, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    I have a 20V battery powered DeWalt angle grinder with a cutting disc if anyone wants to borrow it anytime! Loves to mow through “hardened” steel, like cutting meat loaf (the food, not the singer). I’d do anything for love (of bikes).

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