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Community helps recover stolen cargo bike used in homeless youth outreach program

Posted by on October 1st, 2015 at 11:51 am

These images of a discarded bike sparked some sleuthing and action that led to a successful recovery.
(Photos by Mary C.)

It started with an email from a concerned Portlander and it ended with a bike being reunited with its owner — who in this case happened to be a non-profit organization that works with young people experiencing homelessness. There were no police involved, only people in our community who care about each other and who have an eye for bikes.

On Tuesday we got an email from southwest Portland resident Mary C. She saw what looked to be a cargo bike hidden under a pile of cardboard boxes on the side of her apartment on SW Montgomery. It looked out of place to her because, “This is obviously way too nice of a bike to be sitting, unlocked and hidden this way.” Being a helpful person, she called police and tried to search our stolen bike database but had no luck.

When she asked us, “How can this get spread to the bike community!?” I knew the perfect person to contact: Bryan Hance of Bryan is Portland’s stolen bike recovery superhero. In addition to being a software guy who created (which has since morphed into Bike Index) and created a custom plug-in for us, he’s also on our Bike Theft Task Force and spends most of his free time tracking down stolen bikes.

When Mary shared a photo of the bike, Bryan recalled that it looked very similar to this red bike I photographed at the Disaster Relief Trials event back in July 2014. While Bryan stayed in touch with Mary and urged her to lock up the bike immediately so it didn’t disappear again, I tried to contact Tom Labonty. Tom is the local builder/owner of Toms Cargo Bikes and the stolen bike — which was custom-built as a smoothie-making machine — was one of his creations.

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2014 Disaster Relief Trials-67

Tom Labonty with the bike in July 2014.
(Photo © J Maus/BikePortland)

When I got ahold of Tom he told me he no longer owned the bike. In fact, he had built three of them for a homeless youth outreach program run by Outside In, a non-profit based in downtown Portland. “This is really sad news,” Tom said, after finding out it had been stolen. Then he gave me the name of David Stone, the guy he worked with at Outside In. A quick email to David and he confirmed the bike had been stolen just one week ago.

Meanwhile, Bryan got Mary to lock up the bike and we looped everyone together via email. Mary gave David the combination to the lock and he was able to go over and recover the bike. Now it sits — all locked up and secure — in front of Outside In on SW 13th Avenue.

This recovery was a great team effort. It shows that it doesn’t always take the involvement of the police to recover a stolen bike. Very often bikes are recovered because someone has a watchful eye and cares enough to take a few minutes to send a few emails.

With all the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad bike theft news we’ve been hearing about lately*, we really needed this!

Like stolen bike recovery stories? Read more of them in our archives.

*Stay tuned for more on that, and what we’ve been doing about it.

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • 9watts October 1, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Jane Jacobs would be proud.

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  • George H. October 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Valuable stolen bike ends up in homeless camp. Big shocker. Thieves steal from people who provide them services. Also a huge shock.

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    • Alex Reed October 1, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Wait, I saw no mention of a homeless camp in the article. Unless SW Montgomery is just one big homeless camp? /s

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  • Chris I October 1, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    And when you don’t involve the police, there is absolutely zero chance that the thief will be caught and punished. Good work!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 1, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Chris I,

      A police report was filed prior to the recovery and Outside In does have a security video image of the person who stole the bike. No police involved in the recovery doesn’t mean no police will be involved in the case. And yes, when there’s a bike in the bushes, time is of the essence and it’s not always prudent to wait for police involvement. Thanks for your comment.

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      • Chris I October 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm

        It would help if you stated that in the article. It seemed to me (and several others, apparently) that the emphasis of no police involvement was commentary on the negative relationship between police and the homeless in our community. Many people in this city go out of their way to avoid police involvement (see self policing in occupy groups, outing of “undercover” cops at protest events, etc.)

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        • 9watts October 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm

          you’re reaching, I think.

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  • Endo October 1, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Every person who has a bike stolen is a person who is more likely to say, “I guess I’ll just drive.” All those homeless people rolling around with bikes and trailers likely didn’t buy them, so maybe we need to think about how we treat the crimes committed by the homeless.

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  • Mark S October 1, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Awesome looking watch dog in the last picture.

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  • Dave October 2, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Mazel tov! Always great to hear about the return of a stolen ride.

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