Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Portland’s most wanted bike thief gets unprecedented prison sentence

Posted by on December 22nd, 2015 at 11:47 am

Leroy Parsons on a video monitor
during a hearing last month.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A ruling yesterday by a Multnomah County judge marks a turning point in Portland’s ongoing battle against bike thieves.

Leroy Parsons, a prolific criminal and Portland’s most brazen bike thief, was sentenced to 30 months in prison. That’s the longest sentence ever handed down for bike theft according to Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Hayden. Hayden and his team also convinced the judge to give Parsons a five-year probation period, much longer than sentencing guidelines dictate.

The sentence was the result of years of hard work by downtown bike patrol officers and it marks a significant change in how the DA’s office handles bike theft cases. It’s also a big win for Portland’s Bike Theft Task Force.

I spoke with DA Hayden on the phone this morning to understand more about why this case matters.

“I hope would-be thieves will realize we are going to start looking at these cases differently.”
— Jim Hayden, Senior Deputy District Attorney

Hayden said they could have gotten an even longer sentence if they’d gone to trial with the case (Parsons faced 16 total counts including nine felonies for theft, drug possession, and other crimes); but trials are always risky, especially since several of the bike theft victims currently live out of state.

And for Hayden, the goal was to make sure Parsons got to prison and gets started on a drug treatment program. So they hammered out an agreement. If Parsons does his drug treatment he’ll be eligible to leave prison in 18 months.

His five-year probation started yesterday and it comes with some unique conditions. If Parsons wants a bike when he gets out, he’ll have to first clear it with his probation officer. He also must be able to produce a receipt for the bike and it cannot have a scratched-away serial number.

If Parsons violates any of these conditions he’ll be sent back to prison for 30 months.

Thanks for reading BikePortland.

Please consider a $10/month subscription or a one-time payment
to help maintain and expand this vital community resource.

If you’re worried Parsons will just go right back at it once he hits the streets, Hayden pointed out that, “In effect, [Portland Police Officer David] Sanders becomes his probation officer.”

Officer Dave Sanders.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Ofcr. Sanders is the man Hayden credits with finally putting Parsons behind bars (we first profiled Sanders in October 2014). Hayden said that Sanders will know which bike Parsons is allowed to have. “And if he sees him with any other bike, Sanders can just call up his probation officer and see if it checks out.”

According to Hayden if it wasn’t for the work of Sanders and the other downtown bike cops, this case would not have come together. “Sanders was determined and he never gave up,” he said, “that’s really why we’re here today.” Sanders and his partner Dave Bryant are leaders of the Portland Bike Theft Task Force.

And in fact, it was a bike ride with Officer Sanders that Hayden says changed his perspective.

“For me, the lightbulb went off about bike theft when I went out and rode with those guys. It dawned on me how hard they were working on this and that I needed to do more… It was time for the DA’s office to step up.”

Hayden said in the past they looked at bike theft cases individually, and never took the time to build larger cases and connect dots between multiple thefts. Looked at in isolation, a bike theft doesn’t look very bad. It’s much more serious when you step back and see the larger problem.

“I looked back and saw some old cases we hadn’t done anything with,” Hayden said. “And I realized that I need to look at Leroy Parsons differently. I began to see him as a bike theft problem… We had to change our view of how to prosecute the case. We got smart about how to do this, and that made a big diifference.”

Hayden sees this as a working template his office and the police will use going forward. He’s also a member of Portland’s Bike Theft Task Force, a group that notched another big win back in September with the bust of a major chop shop operation.

While this is good news for the DA and bike theft prevention advocates, the big question is, will Parsons’ sentence trickle down onto the street and scare bike thieves? “I hope it does,” Hayden said. “I hope would-be thieves will realize we are going to start looking at these cases differently. Especially since we have officers like Sanders out there, we’ll start looking at these thefts and putting them together.”

While Hayden is pleased with how this case ended up, he’s less sanguine about what he sees as the larger issue at work here: streetside camps where stacks of (often stolen) bikes and bike parts end up. “We have so many of these transient camps. If there are fewer camps where people are trying to make a buck to feed their addictions and if people had a place to go they wouldn’t need to tear bikes apart.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

Please support BikePortland.

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

  • Alan 1.0 December 22, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Just glancing at BikeIndex’ “stolen within 100 miles of Portland” scroll, the day-to-day numbers seem way down from a few months ago. That could just be seasonal, but I’d be interested if someone could nerd out the numbers over a few years to see what shows up. I wonder if formation of PPB BTTF or removing Parsons from the street, or maybe even Sander’s shifts, show up in that data?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      # stolen per month:

      39 Dec 2015 (to date)
      87 Nov 2015
      113 Oct 2015
      129 Sep 2015

      65 Dec 2014
      65 Nov 2014
      87 Oct 2014
      105 Sep 2014

      Parsons was arrested on Nov 6 2015.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mark December 22, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    This is fantastic! Excellent news!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dan December 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you Dave Sanders!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Buzz December 22, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    What, no mention of Inside Edition??

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • K'Tesh December 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks Inside Edition for helping get this guy off the street

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • q`Tzal December 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    If the drug rehab takes and Leroy Parsons gets his life on some sort of positive track he could be a valuable intel source in the fight against bicycle theft.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Todd Hudson December 22, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      Doubtful. Leroy Parsons will never have a sense of respecting the law or the property of others. There’s no cure (other than incarceration) for someone that far down the sociopath rabbit hole.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • q`Tzal December 22, 2015 at 3:10 pm

        Well, if no criminal of any type or severity is capable of rehabilitation why don’t we just kill them them all? What’s the point in having any punishment other than death?

        I’m not advocating this I’m just drawing a attention to our last century’s
        attempts to rehabilitate criminals rather than simple containment or cruel and usual punishment.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Todd Hudson December 22, 2015 at 3:13 pm

          Your straw man argument is ridiculous.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • q`Tzal December 22, 2015 at 3:42 pm

            Your assertion that this criminal is beyond any possibility of rehabilitation DOES suggest the question be asked “Why bother trying? Why not just kill them all? They are just worthless scraps of carbon that serve only evil.”

            I hope for your sake you are never found guilty of anything, truthfully or not, because your attitude is one of extremism.
            Black and white
            Good and evil
            All those not wit ya are agin ya
            Kill the infidel

            For your sake, and all of humanity, I hope you never fall anywhere in the grey.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • middle of the road guy December 23, 2015 at 11:16 am

              But at some point, some people are not worth saving or do so much damage to society that they need to be removed.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • q`Tzal December 26, 2015 at 9:14 pm

                With a scalpel no less, I agree 100%.

                <philosophical diversion>
                Proving that a person is irredeemable is a trickier prospect.

                At some point (usually the intersection of practicality and possibility) we as a society just give up because we know there is nothing left to do.
                But… for non-violent property theft crimes does appropriate punishment mean a lifetime of incarnation?
                Now, I’m fully for executing criminals that are undeniably guilty of capital crimes and are neurologically incapable of change. Not as a punishment, their suffering ends when they die, but as a humane end to a walking societal poison that can’t be fixed.

                The problem I see is 2-fold:
                () what happens when medical science has the skills to reliably repair faulty neurological circuits responsible for criminal behavior?
                () In what way is a prison sentence of “Life without the possibility of parole” any different than “execution by old age with torture from guards and fellow inmates”?
                </philosophical diversion>

                The problem I see is this: our current penal/correctional system is based on the concept of criminals being able to be made in to not-criminals. We pay a lot of lip service to this but it IS the underlying philosophy.
                Under what guidelines and safeguards do we handle people labeled as “irredeemable” who actually can change their ways to become better citizens?

                Or should we go full Dickensian meat grinder to “get rid of the surplus population”?

                (sorry, I go deep on this topic. The way we deal with criminality as a function of day-to-day life in America seems patently insane).

                Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 7:56 pm

            Your straw man argument is ridiculous.

            It makes sense as a reductio ad absurdum.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

        • dwk December 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

          Sometimes there is no point except getting them off the streets so a few people can continue to keep and ride their bikes…….
          The Lion will lie done with the lamb as long as you put in some fresh lambs now and then…

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • jeff December 28, 2015 at 6:19 pm

          drug rehab is cruel and unusual to you, eh? the guy needs help. he’s now getting it on your tax dollar. unfortunately, the chances of him returning to steal more bikes in 18 months is pretty high.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • canuck December 23, 2015 at 10:23 am

        Hard to say since the courts have until now refused to incarcerate him for any length of time to allow for rehabilitation and retraining. If it hadn’t been for the involvement of a TV show and national attentions I’d guess that he would have been back out the revolving door at the court house.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Scott H December 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Very doubtful. He’s been arrested, what, 98 times? Wherever the line is for “good candidate for rehabilitation,” it’s safe to say he’s he’s good and over it.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • q`Tzal December 22, 2015 at 7:42 pm

        Sure, doubtful, but if…

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Scott H December 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm

          But what?

          This isn’t Frank Abagnale we’re talking about here, this guy going to teach our police department how to spot counterfeit checks. The most useful information he would have would be the names of other bike thieves, and the police probably already know about them and have booked them before. And as this article demonstrates, it’s not a matter of simply arresting those thieves, it’s a matter of paperwork.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • canuck December 23, 2015 at 11:59 am

            don’t blame the police for this. they arrest him, it’s the courts that decide on the punishment. blame the judges that just turfed him each time. I’m sure the police were just as disgusted with the revolving door justice meted out.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wkw December 22, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    This is great work, but the bike theft operations are a ring of people working them. Also of import is who is buying the parts?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Mike December 22, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Cyclists are buying the parts.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • 9watts December 22, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    “Hayden said in the past they looked at bike theft cases individually, and never took the time to build larger cases and connect dots between multiple thefts. Looked at in isolation, a bike theft doesn’t look very bad….”

    When police officers come to our monthly neighborhood meetings, they love to discuss car prowls (not stealing cars, just stealing objects from within them) and always in serious terms. To hear that bike theft (which after all is the theft of the vehicle itself) has until recently been treated so casually by the PPD is disheartening. Another example I think of how bikes and those who own(ed) them are viewed by our institutions as second class concerns, especially when compared to cars and their owners.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • K'Tesh December 22, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    I pray that they use better locks on this guy than what he’s familiar with already.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Greshamite December 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    I love that the ridealong was where Hayden had his insightful “aha moment”, and this writeup helps to appreciate that it takes partnership across function to affect change. It’s not a matter of simply increasing police presence, but a working together across disciplines that really has an impact. Thanks to Officers Sanders and Bryant, the rest of the BTTF, and to DA Hayden for shaking up the status quo and helping redefine the approach moving forward. Cheers to this one, and here’s hoping for more positives!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • B. Carfree December 22, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      My cynical take on the ride along “aha moment” thing is that too many of our public servants think of cyclists as second-class citizens. We’re still some weird “other” to them and our concerns don’t really resonate with them.

      I’m hoping for change, but my hopes have been dashed so often in the past that I keep them more as a matter of tradition than with expectation.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        Well I can assure you that’s not the case here. DA Hayden, along with DA Chuck Sparks, and the elected DA Rod Underhill are all avid bike riders. They ride on the same streets many of us ride on here in Portland. They probably don’t do as much urban, everyday riding as some people, but I know they are often on the Lawyer Ride. And Hayden and Sparks even did the Oregon Outback ride this past spring!

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Jonathan Radmacher December 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm

          Since the person who actually imposes the sentence is the judge (who has lots of discretion to be lenient), I think Judge Wittmayer also deserves kudos.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Greshamite December 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm

        That’s understandable, but isn’t that the perception of many of our fellow residents, with civil servants merely representing a small subset of that group? The more we can share experiences with our potential advocates (and neighbors/community), the more relatable we become and the easier it is to empathize with our positions.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom Hardy December 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Beaverton PD was somewhat taken aback when they were informed that my bike is insured for more, and has a higher replacement cost than My Mercedes. I always take time to introduce myself to local policemen (especially the radar van) after I pass them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • K'Tesh December 22, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      My Other Bicycle is a Bicycle

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • q`Tzal December 22, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Well, how bad off is your Mercedes?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • mh December 23, 2015 at 12:02 am

      I imagine my 1988 Bridgestone 400 with almost everything replaced is worth more than my 1985 Toyota Tercel 4wd wagon. Neither one is insured for theft. I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (It is a war, you know.)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rachel b December 22, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Yay, Officer Sanders! But that last quote from Hayden really irked me–nobody “needs” to steal and tear bikes apart, no matter their circumstances. You can be compassionate and yet not a schmuck and a doormat, Portland.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Hazel L December 22, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Its incredibly disheartening to see the bike “community” applaud this. I hope for a day when we as a “community” are not congratulating cops nor engaging in carceral solutions for our problems. Another human being behind bars is not something we should be celebrating, it is something we should be decrying and fighting against.

    “the mere existence of a place where men and women are held locked up in opportunely equipped iron cages, watched over by other men and women wielding bunches of keys, a place where human beings spend years and years of their lives doing nothing, absolutely nothing, is a sign of the utmost disgrace, not just for this society but for a whole historical era.” – Alfredo Bonnano

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • 9watts December 22, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Thank you, Hazel L. You are brave to volunteer such a compassionate perspective here.
      The response you may receive is likely to be swift and uncharitable.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Zimmerman December 22, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      So, can we give Mr Parsons your address so he may take advantage of your generous heart when he’s released from rehabilitation? When he steals everything else you own you’ll at least have that.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Hazel L December 23, 2015 at 5:04 am

        I have already been stolen from this year, when my house was broken into and my backpack taken. This is immaterial however, because it seems telling to me that your first response to disagreement is to wish ill on me. I do not consider myself “generous” at all. I am however against retributive justice on principle and while I’m sure that form of justice is very satisfying for some I want no part in the inflicting of harm on another person, who has merely taken some things from me. I’m sure you think I’m naive and of course you can but these principles were the same before and after. Hurting someone will not give people their bikes back, nor will it truly resolve the social problems that lead to bike theft in the first place.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • eddie December 22, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      I’ve been part of the “Portland bike community” for at least 20 years, have been robbed of bikes, bike tools, etc. etc. etc. and I totally agree with you. Throwing a guy in jail isn’t going to solve the problem that put him there, and as Foucault said, the penitentiary system serves to refine and encourage criminal behavior, not to prevent or discourage it.

      Unfortunately most Americans, and people who comment on this blog are no exception, believe in the prison system. It’s what I call the board game or video game concept of reality, that you can just take the “bad” pieces off the board and they’ll no longer be a problem.

      But this type of simplification doesn’t look into the root causes of crime, nor does it suggest any solutions. Most Americans are, simply, complete morons when it comes to things like this, they’ll just go along with what the prison industrial complex wants them to believe, that warehousing human beings is somehow going to make them safer.

      It has never done this, isn’t presently doing it, and never will – and no amount of convincing or proving this to certain people will ever change their minds.

      So I do my best to ignore them.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Paul H December 23, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Any real response to significant transgressions against peaceful human community has to encompass three things: restoration of peace, rehabilitation of the offender, and retribution for the transgression.

      Restoration of peace is the sine qua non. It’s one reason jails are viewed as a viable solution. The offender is no longer free to offend, so the community can regain peace.

      Rehabilitation is imperative to a sustainable community. Jails are demonstrably unfit for this task. The tricky bits are that (a) people lie about having “learned the lesson,” (b) recidivism is common, esp. among younger offenders, and (c) rehabilitation is hard to define. The parole period is designed for this task, but I’ve not heard many arguments that it’s meeting this goal regularly.

      Retribution is tricky. It’s meant partly to be a deterrent (the price of transgression is higher than its rewards), partly a way for someone to “pay the price” of transgressive behavior. It’s also tricky: thirst for it is driven as much by personality as anything else. It’s relatively easy to define for property crimes (just pay back the cost) but not for rape, murder, harassment, bodily injury, etc. Incarceration is partly viewed as a means of retribution, but I doubt many people are satisfied with it in that role.

      In the case at hand, removing Mr. Parsons from free society (or subjecting him to extremely intrusive oversight) handles restoration of peace. Any alternative to incarceration must demonstrably do the same. I agree with Hazel et al. that incarceration is unlikely to promote rehabilitation, but I strongly suspect that the $86,000 figure being thrown around this thread, if applied to alternatives, would do so either (in this case). Rehab of the soul is a long and, if the subject is unwilling, costly project. As for retribution, I’m not a great thinker. I doubt Mr. Parsons will ever be able to pay back his victims, though perhaps an (enforced) effort in that direction would be good for everyone.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 1:13 pm

        retribution != restitution

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rachel b December 23, 2015 at 12:01 am

    What do you think should be done about Parsons? Hazel? 9watts? I’m not being challenging–I truly want to know. As a victim of a serious crime myself (after which an abundance of compassion and absence of consequence for the perpetrator caused nothing but sorrow, ultimately, for one and all), I am flummoxed at the kind of compassion that doesn’t hold others accountable for their actions.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Hazel L December 23, 2015 at 5:22 am

      I think a restorative justice framework would be far better. The creation of a rapport between both parties, discussion of harm done and intent by on each part, an emphasis on what victims want (I think in most cases this is a return of the stolen goods, punishment comes to substitute for this because it is so rare for police to actually find and return stolen goods) Also a recognition that bike theft does not exist in a social vacuum but exists from a confluence of factors. We could even spend some of the 86 thousand dollars it will cost to imprison Parsons during this time on this instead. I’m not denying that this approach is more difficult but at the same time it seems to me that the easy solution of punishment cannot be the way we advocate for as bicyclists, without being complicit in violence, in addition to be ineffective.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 8:31 am

        We are so steeped in the violent, retributive paradigm that it can be difficult for people to fathom a wholly different approach to this kind of injustice, but from what I’ve understood about alternative approaches is that they actually work (by most any definition you’d care to deploy) much better than what we in this society reflexively do with people who commit crimes.
        Here’s one very successful approach: Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP):
        I recommend watching the 6-minute video

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 23, 2015 at 8:37 am

        Thanks for sharing these thoughts Hazel. I understand you and hear what you’re saying. I’m conflicted. In this case, Mr. Parsons is a clear and present danger to society so I feel we must have a mechanism to remove him as a threat. The mechanism we have now is incarceration… which I agree is not an ideal solution.

        And a few things I want to make clear. There already is a very strong understanding that the bike theft crimes Parsons committed is part of a larger social problem. The DA’s office, the PPB, City Hall, myself… We have been talking about the issues of addiction, homelessness, and so on since Day One. DA Hayden told me his main goal of the case wasn’t to lock Parsons up, but rather to get him into a drug treatment program.

        And I don’t think expressing relief and satisfaction at this ruling against Parsons is equal to “bicyclists advocating for punishment.”

        Your solution sounds great, but it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to gather all of Parsons’ victims from all over the country and get them in a room together to begin some sort of rapport.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 8:41 am

          “Your solution sounds great, but it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to gather all of Parsons’ victims from all over the country and get them in a room together to begin some sort of rapport.”

          I guarantee it would cost a lot less than $86,000, and it stands a pretty good chance of yielding results more interesting, with more salutary consequences than locking him up. Without a rudimentary sense of what alternative approaches are, how they work, it is very difficult to judge their efficacy, or the larger social never mind fiscal consequences of one vs another approach. The fact that Parsons has been arrested 98 times already should be more than enough evidence to suggest that our present approach is profoundly wasteful of money, time, resources, and does not lead to any measurable improvements.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Zimmerman December 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

            I’m curious, if having a good old fashioned Brady Bunch family meeting between the parties doesn’t work, what then?

            I agree that improving society so that there’s no need to steal another person’s property would be the best for everyone. But, that’s not the current reality and I do not believe Leroy Parsons would be rehabilitated in the slightest by talking it out with his victims. This is a person who has stated openly that he does not care about anyone but himself.

            Also Hazel, I do not wish ill on you. I was simply illustrating what would likely happen if we coddle career criminals.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 9:44 am

              “I was simply illustrating what would likely happen if we coddle career criminals.”

              Except that you’ve shown yourself to be completely ignorant of what these alternatives actually entail, what the expectations of those accused are, and how the parties to this process think and feel about it. You’re just parroting sarcastic, misleading boilerplate.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Zimmerman December 23, 2015 at 10:13 am

                “Well, that’s just like, your opinion, man.” – The Dude

                Are you saying you have knowledge of the things you’re accusing me of being ignorant about? Do you have any data showing that a tactic like Hazel is describing works on career criminals? I’m pretty sure that removing a person like Leroy Parsons from society will prevent him from committing crimes during his incarceration. I’m not so sure that talking it out and letting him go would do that. Then again, that’s just like, my opinion man.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

                You’ve shown yourself in the comments here to be the kind of fellow who delights in showing how tough we can or should be toward criminals.

                Leroy Parson is I think a textbook example, not of what an inherently problematic human looks like, but of how our system fails utterly to actually solve anything about the situation in which he finds himself, the crimes he commits. There is nothing about our system’s handling of Leroy Parsons’ case until recently that reassures me that we are achieving anything like a resolution for the victims, for Mr. Parsons, or for the state (taxpayers, legal system).

                Restorative justice, reconciliation, these are not just phrases but actual programs that seek to move beyond the recidivism, the violence, the waste of money and humans that our current system is steeped in.

                Your caricatures of what you think this involves: “talking it out and letting him go,” “a good old fashioned Brady Bunch family meeting between the parties,” “so he may take advantage of your generous heart” shows that you are not only ignorant of the process but uninterested in learning that—just maybe—this is something worth knowing about, something that works, something that can interrupt the patterns that in our society turn people into what you so glibly refer to as ‘career criminals.’

                Here’s some more reading for you:

                Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 1:37 pm

            I guarantee it would cost a lot less than $86,000, and it stands a pretty good chance of yielding results more interesting, with more salutary consequences than locking him up.

            Travel, lodging, meals, lost wages, mediator, facilities…

            Average bike is maybe $500, Parsons averaged maybe one per day, that’s $182,500 per year when he’s on the street (neglecting intangibles like victim’s anguish and confidence in bikes as a mode share).

            Interesting yes, I find such studies of interest, but at some point not as much interest as simply leading a productive life free of such pests. Behavioral studies on other animals indicate that hard-wired, baked-in behavioral traits are nearly impossible to change. That’s sad, I don’t advocate not giving people (or animals!) chances to correct their behavior, but at some point I think that it’s more humane to use our collective resources (including sympathy) on cases where the results will be satisfactory to society.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm

              I wonder if it would be possible to estimate how much taxpayer money has already been spent ineffectually chasing after Mr. Parsons all these years, processing him through the system 98 times. It may be on the same order of magnitude as Hazel’s number for incarceration.

              Your math is impressive and gives one pause, Alan 1.0. I still think we should not rule out restorative justice as a method a priori, just because Parson’s case is egregious on so many levels.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Middle of the Road guy December 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm

            The fact that he’s been arrested 98 times shows me this is an individual with no desire to change.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm

              “The fact that he’s been arrested 98 times shows me this is a society that punishes in a manner that (at least in this case) isn’t likely to motivate change.”

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Zimmerman December 23, 2015 at 2:16 pm

                Really, has he ever been punished? It seems like he hasn’t been in any significant way. Could that be why he continues to offend without remorse?

                Is it possible that this prison sentence and subsequent probation term might change his behavior? I personally doubt it, but I suppose there’s always a chance.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • 9watts December 23, 2015 at 2:20 pm

                We have I think the worst of both worlds here. A system that is built around punishment (prison, shaming, violence) but also one that is overloaded and unlikely to actually mete out much in the way of ‘correction.’ So in Parsons’ case we get high costs (taxpayer) and impunity (Mr. Parsons). Impressive. Glad my taxes are going to something productive.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Beth December 24, 2015 at 7:47 pm

              Desire? Or incentive?

              Someone who’s been arrested so many times, then tossed back out on the same streets, into the same socio-economic landscape and the same poverty and racisim and classism as was there before, has NO incentive to change. Theft is faster and easier and, frankly, far more doable than getting clean and sober, getting an education and finding a job that pays enough to get off the streets in Portland.

              On the other hand, someone who’s been arrested this many times is likely uninterested in doing the work required IN THIS LANDSCAPE to make his life better, safer and more productive. Curing the ills of society is fine, but it cannot happen soon eough to prevent recidivism of people like Leroy Parsons.

              Social change is generational, and takes generations. In the meantime, we need to have a way to keep law-abiding people from getting hurt by repeat offenders. I wonder how many of us are willing to be placed at greater risk in the short-term while we work on generational solutions.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

      • rachel b December 23, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        Hi Hazel–Thanks, you and 9watts and all, for continuing with your thoughts. Having grown up very closely with people who are addicts and who’ve committed sexual assault (unprosecuted), who embezzled and stole to support their habits, who’ve hurt numerous people (esp. those close to them) and who exhibited no remorse (in fact, joking about it), I have to say they’d laugh heartily at the idea of “talking it out” with their victims. But they’d be all for it, in lieu of something that held them more accountable for their actions.

        I feel it’s not only difficult, as you say, but impossible to implement the ideas you so admirably espouse, given basic human nature as demonstrated over and over, quite consistently, through the eons. It’s how I feel about communism–great in theory, impossible–because of actual people–to make work.

        The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa provides a good example of the admirable and compassionate restorative justice idea having gone very wrong, and to the sad detriment of victims (and to the good of perpetrators). It’s universally acknowledged now, despite the PR campaigning of the Commission, that few if any of the victims achieved any kind of ‘reconciliation’ or justice. Instead, they were revictimized, and those who did them great harm, rewarded.

        My feeling is that in recent years in Portland, our hands-off inaction re: petty crime (letting it slide) has led directly to the bigger problems we face now. Expecting consequences for anti-social, damaging actions doesn’t make me gleeful. When I hurt someone, I expect to pay for it. I know what it’s like to grow up with serious challenges, to be hurt, to be mentally ill, to want to numb yourself or die, to just not care. I don’t expect everyone to be able to surmount their problems alone as I was forced to for way too long, but I also know I can’t be a safety net for everyone I meet, friend and stranger alike. This does not make me any less compassionate. Pragmatic, yes. I do what I can.

        And I can tell you, from the viewpoint of one who grew up up close and personal with a sociopath–some people do not want to be saved. But they’ll take whatever compassion you’ll give them, sure.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul Johnson December 23, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Now taking odds on whether or not PPB would have paid attention, much less made an example out of him, if he were white.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Justin December 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I agree with Hazel’s suggestion that the “extremely difficult if not impossible” notion of restorative justice (note that I respectfully disagree with the Jonathan’s opinion as to restorative justice’s practicality) is greatly preferable to locking up offenders, and I wanted to highlight her point about the community “applauding” incarceration of any person:

    In the bike community, there seems to be a general, non-specific opposition to issues surrounding mass incarceration: we get that the justice and law enforcement systems target minorities disproportionately because we’ve read about it on the Huffington Post, so we generally distrust those systems; we get that incarceration is non-rehabilitative because we saw an episode of Frontline about it one time, so we generally oppose it as a viable recourse for addressing crime; we get that jail/prison conditions are to some uncertain extent unpleasant because, well, we have common sense, so we generally dislike the idea of locking people up.

    But god help the person who commits a crime that impacts US more directly than it impacts others. Once our cars are broken into, we think car prowlers are the scum of the earth; once our bikes are stolen, we wish death upon the thieves. (I get it; anger is natural). But in our outrage, we forget that people are capable of changing, or that “making an example” of a person by means of a harsh sentence is out of line with our otherwise level-headed and empathic opinions about incarceration. We forget, or perhaps we never knew, just how horrifically difficult it would be to spend a year and a half in a state prison, how disproportionate a punishment that sentence is for ANY non-violent criminal. (If anyone who has never served time has the opportunity to tour a state prison or county lock-up, they should; it was life-changing for me.)

    I applaud DDA Hayden’s acknowledgment that the roots of many of these crimes lay in adverse social conditions rather than in deranged individuals’ perverse desires to wreak havoc on society (one commenter above referred to Parsons as a “sociopath”…I both hope and presume that he is not a trained psychologist); but Hayden’s seeming regret at not getting an even harsher sentence marks a disconnect between his concern for society and his concern for the troubled individuals whose dysfunctions society is burdened with curing. It’s wonderful that Mr. Parsons will eventually get both treatment and the sort of individualized attention that may actually help him refrain from returning to his past behavior; but the 18 months of hell that he must first endure will not at all push him toward that goal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 23, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Great points Justin. Thanks for sharing them. I would strongly caution you though, about making such sweeping generalizations of the “bike community” (or any community for that matter). The truth is that our community (notice I don’t ever use the “bike” qualifier) is full of people with very different opinions. Also note that FWIW you will never see any presentation or advocacy from BikePortland of the “Death to Bike Thieves” meme.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Eric Leifsdad December 25, 2015 at 2:58 pm

        I often wonder what people think defines “the bike community”, but I hear that phrase more often from people who don’t bike (as in: “you people.”)

        As somebody who owns a bike and sometimes parks it outside a destination, I feel some sense of relief from this story — in that taking bike theft seriously is a good step i.e. how often do you see cars being chopped for parts under an overpass?

        The bigger, difficult question of whether incarceration is effective applies equally to issues beyond bike theft.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Zimmerman December 23, 2015 at 10:44 am

    I do not “delight” in the taking of someone’s freedom. Nor do I “delight” in being robbed or beaten, or hearing about another person’s being so. As unpleasant as being incarcerated may sound, it’s the way things are handled NOW. As in, there is no time machine we can use to go back and fix the circumstances of Mr. Parson’s life. Short of a massive overnight legislative change in how justice is meted out I’m not sure exactly what you expect to have done differently.

    Also, what’s glib about calling someone who makes their living from robbing others a career criminal? That’s Mr. Parson’s career. He steals to survive, that’s his vocation. There’s nothing insulting about it.

    I’m open to learning about & interested in restorative justice. I’ll read your link.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Craig Gifen December 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Why no mention of Inside Edition? Notice how something was actually done this time by the judge and DA now that the national press was waiting to see what happened?

    Had the normal catch and release process been followed, the press would have had a field day with this.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    (This posting form is telling me “error” when I try to post my full answer, so I will try it in pieces.)

    Leroy Parsons does not meet the selection criteria for either VORP you mentioned. Given that the results (rehab vs. recidivism) of both programs are marginal even with their highly selective criteria, I don’t think that the VORP model has any chance of success with Parsons.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    (piece 2)

    I’m not at all thrilled with our criminal corrections system and there are lots of improvements which would have good results if we as a society adopted them (one example: Family Preservation Project) but there are also plenty of cases where there is no good answer and removing the bad person from society is the least bad option.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      (piece 3)

      I’ve found some better diggings in than in Big G’s more commercial/popular main search, for example

      Annotation: Prison does little to prepare inmates for law-abiding, independent living after their release, so recidivism of young offenders is to be expected.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Alan 1.0 December 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm

        (piece 4)

        Abstract: The philosophy of the criminal justice system since the Enlightenment over two centuries ago is that all people are rational and will manage their behaviors so as to avoid adverse situations and promote fulfilling and pleasurable outcomes. The threat of prison terms, whose length varies according to offense severity as determined by legislators, is supposed to cause people to avoid behaviors that may incur imprisonment. Such a philosophy misunderstands what motivates and influences human behavior. Human behavior is based more in passion, imitation, convenience, opportunity, and emotional needs than in rational assessments of the rewards and punishments potentially attached to them. Abuse and neglect in the family; peer enticements to predatory and acquisitive behavior; and limited opportunities for constructive social bonding, education, and vocational training are the parameters within which criminal behaviors are forged. Prison becomes a part of this counterculture, and prison does little to introduce inmates to the dominant culture’s values, socialization, and legitimate economic behaviors. Upon release back into the neighborhoods and social bonds of the counterculture, recidivism and a return to prison is likely. Statistics show that aging is the most significant factor in the diminishment of criminal behavior. People tend to change when they get tired of the risks, the hassle, and the futility of counterculture behaviors and outcomes.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger December 23, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    With the DA’s “a-ha” moment this bodes well for improved recovery rates. This is an important element to keeping Portlanders (and visitors on bike) on their bikes when in town…and in Platinum ranking…I have often talked to cyclists in other cities (like DC) that once they lose their second or third bike when locked on the street they then stop cycling as a transportation mode.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Todd Boulanger December 23, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      The DA’s and PPBs recent efforts at focusing on bike thefts is much better than my personal experience with bike theft in bike super friendly Amsterdam’s police…they just shrugged and showed me the door. So way to go and “out do” Amsterdam…with this new trend.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger December 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Though I have to respond to a bit of potential ‘bombast’. I strongly doubt that this is the “longest sentence ever” for a bike theft in the history of the county.

    “…was sentenced to 30 months in prison. That’s the longest sentence ever handed down for bike theft according to Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney…”

    There would likely be much longer and harsher fines back in the late 19th Century…if they were to do the research in their files. [This might make for a good follow up article – the history of bike theft and sentencing.]

    I would suggest that the statement be clarified, as it is most likely longest sentence in recent years or “modern” history (post war) etc. Just say’n.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Granpa December 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Wow, this really took off after Hazel’s comment. I am humbled by her depth of compassion. I don’t think is is warranted with a career criminal or (borderline) sociopath.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • rachel b December 23, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Is Parsons not a career criminal?

      I’ve long noted that perpetrators of crime–both lesser and horrific–seem sometimes to attract more visible, vocal support and compassion than those whom they’ve harmed. It’s curious to me, and it seems to be more and more prevalent (esp. in Portland), to sympathize with those who harm, and less of an instinct (weirdly) to sympathize with victims of crime. I’ve seen this in my own experience, too. It’s given me a bit of a jaded eye for vehement vocal defense of people who do bad things to other people, I confess. Though life has made me a cynic, I really do hope for the best. But I can’t help occasionally thinking leaping to the defense of those who commit crimes (versus demonstrating concern for their victims) is in part a bid for exactly what you delivered, Granpa–a pat on the back for one’s “depth of compassion.” And please forgive my gimlet eye. I’ve just seen a whole lot of wrong-headed, well-intentioned, expressed “compassion” further victimize those on the pointy end of crime.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Katie Taylor December 23, 2015 at 11:06 pm

        This is spot on, rachel b. The top priority here should be the public good, and the primary goal to interfere with the criminal’s ability to commit crime. Anyone who’s had a close relationship with a sociopath can tell you that rehabilitating them is next to impossible. You can manipulate the situation so their best interest is served by not taking advantage of you, but talking it out with them is not going to accomplish that. If you could make it so all the victims of the crime tag teamed following Parsons around all day and all night long, you might have a solution, but that would be a real chore for the victims (I might sign up for it though!). I’m no fan of the prison system as it currently exists – particularly prison for profit – but there’s nothing inherently inhumane about pulling people out of a social system because of their parasitic behavior. When your first impulse on hearing about someone like Parsons is overflowing compassion – for HIM – the people footing the bill for your magnanimity are his past and future victims. That’s why it’s such an easy position to take. It doesn’t cost you anything, and tends to earn you a lot of praise – as it did here.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mark December 23, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    It’s best for most of us to be happy that this person is out of sight..and out of mind. The system that would actually rehabilitate this man and other doesn’t exist..and even more so…Americans don’t believe in it. Most are fine that there are a huge number of people in prison..and of course..over represented by minorities. Everyone knows that this problem has roots in both slavery and the system of discrimination put in place since then.

    It’s just now..sort of changing. The jails are the last resort and the worst solution.

    Looking in the mirror is the best solution. Why are we not bike thieves..and he is?

    Answer that question..honestly..and we fix the insane prison problem we have.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Dead Salmon December 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm


      It’s actually far more serious than you know. Eventually this individual would have been caught in the act and confronted by a victim. What might happen then? Broken bones? Death? The possible bad outcomes are unlimited and could have devastating consequences for both parties – and others. 30 months for his long string of crimes is exceptionally lenient.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Dead Salmon December 24, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Large percentage of minorities in our prisons does not have roots in slavery. Slavery ended around 150 years ago. Discrimination may play a very minor roll, but folks who want to achieve can do so in this country – that does not mean it is easy – for most it isn’t – no matter what your skin color. This is more likely the direct result of the welfare state that turns people into government dependents with little incentive to do well and work hard – and unfortunately many of those folks live in particular neighborhoods in our cities so the dependent lifestyle is reinforced by their surroundings – there is no incentive to work or to raise their kids – mom can get a welfare check.

      Many black people who had slaves as ancestors get up each day, work hard, and do well in this country – probably many of those people had parents who did the same and who bothered to raise their kids the best they could. There are exceptions – even the best families can produce criminals including white families – and guess what – no slaves in their family tree.

      If you want to solve a problem, first you need to understand what the problem really is. We’ve been blaming this on slavery, discrimination, etc forever – how has that worked out?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Erik Olson December 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Nice job Officer Sanders. Keep up the good work and THANK YOU!

    Recommended Thumb up 0