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Portland Police make arrest via new bait bike program

Posted by on July 26th, 2017 at 8:47 am

A post on the PPB Bike Theft Task Force Twitter account yesterday.

A new program being run by the Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force is showing early returns.

Yesterday in Old Town a man was arrested after stealing a bicycle that was equipped with a tracking device. The bike is just one in a growing fleet of bait bikes being deployed by the Task Force. It’s all part of the PPB’s ongoing effort to discourage bike theft.

As GPS devices have improved and become more accessible in recent years, the technology is finally becoming more common with law enforcement agencies. As we reported in 2015, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office arrested thieves who nabbed a bait bike from Reed College. And just last week the Washington County Sheriff’s Office was featured in a KGW-TV news story about their bait bike program.

A Washington County Sheriff told KGW, “We hope the word gets out that if you try to steal a bike… we’re going to catch you. We want the public to know that, bicycle owners to know that, as well as potential bike thieves.” (Note: I’ve been in touch with Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett to connect his officers with Portland officers for a bit of knowledge-sharing about their respective programs.)

Officer David Sanders leads the PPB Bike Theft Task Force unit. For him, using bait bikes is an important step to keep up with thieves — some of whom are now taking the unusual step of modifying serial numbers to avoid being tracked down.

I spoke with Sanders yesterday about the new bait bike program.

So far PPB have concentrated their efforts in areas with high rates of bike theft (like Old Town) and in places that can be reached quickly by responding officers. They place bikes (which they get from the PPB property room) in the field in places where they have a video feed. When a bike is taken, officers get an alarm. In the past authorities have been reluctant to use bait bikes because of the time it would take to watch the bikes. Sanders has solved that problem. “The bike is on an electronic leash so we don’t have to watch it the entire time,” he said. “The system notifies us when the bike moves.”

Another key aspect of the PPB’s program is the video feed. This allows officers to prove that the suspect whom they ultimately catch is the person who took the bike. One of the problems with enforcing bike theft is that bikes are passed from hand-to-hand quickly and suspects often lie about how they acquired the property. Officers often make an arrest only to see judges throw out the case due to lack of incontrovertible evidence. (We shared more on the difficulty making bike theft convictions in 2015.)

Ofcr David Sanders PPB

Officer Sanders in 2014.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The PPB also locks the bait bikes, another step that makes it clear the bike isn’t theirs and helps build the case against them.

In yesterday’s case, Sanders said the bait bike took about three hours to get stolen. “A pretty standard amount of time,” he said. The suspect walked past the bike several times to check it out, Sanders shared with me. Then he sat down in front of the bike for about 30 minutes before he actually snipped the cable lock and rode away.

The tracking device in the bike pings the PPB with the location every 40-60 seconds. The goal is to catch the same thief from the video before they pass the bike off to someone else. Once on the hunt for the stolen bike, the technology allows officers to track the bike down to within a specific unit in an apartment building if necessary.

Sanders said he has also started charging bike thieves with the additional crime of Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle (UUV), a felony. This is on top of standard theft charges which only reach felony status when the bike is valued at over $1,000. “Someone might not steal a $1,000 bike but can still get charged with a felony. This is something new that we’re doing and maybe it will be more of a deterrent.”

The goal of the program isn’t just to nab thieves, it’s about sending a larger message to would-be criminals that the next bike they take could be a bait bike.

Sanders didn’t say exactly how much the program has cost. It’s being funded with a $4,000 donation to the Bike Theft Task Force from the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club.

Learn more about the PPB’s bike theft enforcement and education efforts at PortlandOregon.gov/Police. And follow the Bike Theft Task Force on Twitter @PPBBikeTheft.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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148 Comments
  • bikeninja July 26, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Bravo, The part about the standard 3 hours until theft is eye opening though.

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    • Eric H July 26, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Yeah, probably would be a lot less time if they used the ottolock for the bait bikes.

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      • ben B July 26, 2017 at 11:57 am

        Care to explain? I use the ottolock, and its a quality product, I trust it with my fairly expensive bikes.

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        • BB July 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm

          Approx 1 day between the time the ottolock article went up on this website and the time reports coming in about them being defeated and bikes being stolen. If you like your bikes and don’t want them stolen you shouldn’t “trust” anything like the otto.

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          • John Liu
            John Liu July 26, 2017 at 12:54 pm

            Defeated with an angle grinder which will defeat anything.

            Anyway, the bait bikes should be locked with cables, to make them easier to steal. No point in a bait locked with three U locks and a guard dog.

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            • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 12:58 pm

              Well…the protection dog might inflict some long-term deterrence.

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            • Bay Area rider July 27, 2017 at 5:26 am

              Given enough time and the right tools no lock, or secure parking location, can prevent a bike from being stolen. The only thing you can do is make your bike less attractive than another near by bike when it comes to theft. This pretty much applies to any theft situation be it bikes, cars or homes.

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              • JC July 27, 2017 at 10:06 am

                Right. Applies to your partner as well.

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            • DIMcyclist July 27, 2017 at 11:22 pm

              With enough diligence you can cut through a cable with a fingernail clipper; it takes a while, but our local hipsters wouldn’t raise a finger to stop you- if that meant having to put out a cigarette or looking less bored. (For real: I’ve actually seen this.)

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  • Middle of the Road Guy July 26, 2017 at 9:26 am

    These guys are going to be busy. I personally think there would me much less crime if such behavior was sufficiently “disinentivized”. Woe to the person I catch messing with my bikes.

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    • Chris I July 26, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Just remember, most of these guys have mental health issues, and have knives. Not worth a trip to the ER.

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      • Skid July 31, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        Most of my bikes are worth about the same as a trip to the ER

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  • Annag July 26, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I wasn’t aware of the serial # modification scheme, unable to read the entire article due to the ads, any suggestions for putting the # on a different place on the bike , ie to be proactive ? I wonder if any bike shops would or are providing this service.

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    • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 11:40 am

      I don’t think an aftermarket serial number solution is a good idea. Re-stamping them is likely to deform and damage the frame or its machined surfaces. Rivets or stickers are easy to remove. If a bike shop can do it, so can a clever thief, throwing doubt onto which numbers to trust. It was easy to see that the modified numbers on KATU had been altered, and it’s not a widespread problem, at least so far.

      I think the low hanging fruit is still to get bike owners to record their serial numbers, especially at a searchable place like https://bikeindex.org/.

      (BTW, have you tried an adblocker?)

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    • D2 July 26, 2017 at 11:56 am

      I’ve heard of people putting identifiers in seat tubes or head tubes. Anywhere in the frame that might not get taken apart or noticed even if it were.

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      • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        Yes, +1 to other identifier/tracker devices in addition to serial numbers. In fact, Bryan Hance wrote about one such device last month on BikeIndex:

        https://bikeindex.org/news/verifir—bike-tracking-tech-weve-been-waiting-for

        Which reminds me, what technology is Portland Police using for tracking these bait bikes? (…only if that info does not compromise their operation!)

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      • BrianC July 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm

        Or just get your handy engraver and put your ODL# all over the removable components… (Crank arms, stem, handle bars, etc…)

        For those who “don’t care” and are going to keep the parts “forever”…

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        • Skid July 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm

          um….identity theft could be a concern here. I have seen DL #’s and SSN’s on frames. The 2 crimes tweekers are notorious for are bike theft and identity theft.

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  • Pete July 26, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Set up the gallows…

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  • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Excellent!
    It is nice to learn of meaningful actions like this which can motivate a switch from cynicism to hope.

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  • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 9:40 am

    “The PPB also locks the bait bikes…”

    Let me guess – they don’t use a Kryptonite U-lock…

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    • Middle of the Road Guy July 26, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Whatever it takes to identify and remove the offending parties is fine with me.

      As an aside, do you think Batman uses a Krytponite lock to keep Clark Kent from stealing his bike?

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      • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 12:14 pm

        Hmm…faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, jumps 8-foot chain-link fences in a single bound…Batbike might need two U-locks to keep it safe from that sort.

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    • Matthew in Portsmouth July 26, 2017 at 10:05 am

      I’ve had a bike stolen that was locked up with a Kryptonite, they’re not invincible.

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      • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:09 am

        Yes.
        Nevertheless….

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      • David Hampsten July 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

        Even Kryponite says their best locks are not invincible. Two cuts with an angle grinder is all you need to cut a NY U-lock.

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        • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 11:27 am

          This has been an actuarial game from the get-go. You don’t need to run as fast as the bear, just faster than your hiking companion. Once everyone’s gotten the hang of U-locks and cable locks, and poor locking techniques have been banished to the rubbish heap of history let’s check in again and see how much of a problem we still have with bike theft.

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          • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 5:11 pm

            Very good point. I no longer recommend entry-level U locks to people anymore. I tell them that that’s what everyone else is using so you get a big security boost moving up to the next level. Just make yourself a little faster than your friend and that way your bike isn’t a bear’s dinner. Hmmmm… I feel like I did that wrong.

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    • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 10:27 am

      9watts
      “The PPB also locks the bait bikes…”
      Let me guess – they don’t use a Kryptonite U-lock…

      Why would they do that?

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      • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Well… being rather interested in this topic myself, I have come to understand that although not perfect, a Kryptonite/ABUS/equiv. U-lock offers the best (practical) level of protection, and as such if I were a member of this task force and knew a thing or two about how bikes are typically locked around these parts, and what kind of locking devices/practices corresponded to loss-through-theft I can’t imagine using the kind of lock on a bait bike that is known to offer the (relatively) best level of protection.

        I linked to this story in another post here yesterday:
        https://medium.com/endbiketheft-stories/portland-is-making-it-too-easy-for-bike-thieves-17297f0ccc6d

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        • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 5:13 pm

          Oh good. You do know about the other options. I just didn’t read down far enough. That’s my bad. Hair flip emoji.

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      • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:36 am

        I mean… the point of this program is to get the bike stolen, right?

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        • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 10:45 am

          Yes, exactly. So, why would the police try to make it harder to steal a bait bike?

          As you may recall (ref: moored boats), I personally think that a bike should remain where its owner left it rather indefinitely (barring it being parked illegally, abandoned, etc.). I know that is not how things are, but I also know that taking things that aren’t yours, no matter how weakly locked they might be, is wrong. If the thief cuts the lock, no matter how weak it is, to me that is 200 proof evidence of criminal intent.

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          • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:52 am

            I think you missed the word ‘don’t’ in my post. We appear to be on the same page.

            As for how the world should be – definitely. But locks (for houses, cars, bikes, even gas caps, in 1974) have been a thing for a very, very, very long time. I don’t think anyone is saying that the thief isn’t in the wrong (I’m certainly not); what I am saying is that given the circumstances in which we find ourselves, to remain willfully in denial of the probabilities of theft, to refuse to take precautions we all on some level recognize as prudent just doesn’t compute. At some point (presuming you are interested in finding your bike still there when you return) common sense meets our conceptions of right and wrong.

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            • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 10:58 am

              We’re certainly in violent agreement, then! I didn’t miss that word, I just missed the point of what you were saying (which you didn’t actually come right out and say…).

              In the vein of “oh look! someone left the KEYS in it…” here’s an earworm for y’all, today: https://youtu.be/zxGpmp6URuk

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              • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 11:05 am

                “I just missed the point of what you were saying (which you didn’t actually come right out and say…). ”

                I certainly wasn’t trying to be obtuse.

                + cops locked the bike
                + but probably not with a U-lock

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              • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 11:14 am

                No, I don’t think you were trying to equivicate, but your words are ambiguous. It’s a common problem in online comments…brevity, speed, short-cuts. I’m probably doing it now! 🙂

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              • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 11:21 am

                I’m always eager to understand limits to my attempts at clear communication.

                We all have been having a long running argument here and elsewhere about the relative efficacy of bike locks and techniques, and the implications of this gradient for the chances that one’s bike will still be there upon one’s return. My point above was that this fact (cops locking bait bike) might offer a clue (definitive proof?) to those still not convinced that it is possible to lock one’s bike and have it summarily stolen.

                Mostly I find it frustrating when and am reacting to people who intone that U-locks don’t offer 100% protection, and in the process miss that they do offer 95-98% protection (figures from Gerald Fittipaldi of PSU).

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              • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 11:55 am

                I’m not sure what you’re looking for in that post…? I’m not arguing about U-lock efficacy; use ’em!! If you’re asking about what was ambiguous in your statement…

                “The PPB also locks the bait bikes…”

                Let me guess – they don’t use a Kryptonite U-lock…

                …it can be taken (as I did) to say the police should use a U-lock to prevent theft, which is, indeed, what you, yourself, constantly espouse on this subject. It doesn’t overtly acknowledge that, in this case, preventing theft is not the objective. That’s the ambiguity. I hope that’s enough on this matter! 🙂

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    • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      You do know Kryptonite is not the only company that makes high-quality locks, right? They’re just the most well-known. Companies like ABUS make amazing high-security locks, and TiGr makes locks that are just as secure as the most popular Kryptonite lock. There’s actually quite a few options available to consumers.

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  • dan July 26, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Nice to see this happening! Would be great to see the program expanded – will further donations allow for more bait bikes?

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  • Lester Burnham July 26, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Great program, but how soon till bleeding hearts complain it’s not fair to the poor bike thieves?

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    • David July 26, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Can we also figure out a way to create a “bait straw-man” program on blogs to discourage inane arguments positing hypothetical arguments that have actually never been made?

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      • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 11:45 am

        Yeah, but just like in meatspace, the problem is always enforcement.

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      • Zimmerman July 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm

        You’ll always be guaranteed to catch Lester and Quigley, no matter the bait.

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    • CaptainKarma July 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Weird.

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    • JeffS July 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Countdown to the PSU study analyzing the demographics of the bait bike drop locations.

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    • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      I was literally just coming here to do exactly that! (See below 🙂

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  • Andrew Kreps July 26, 2017 at 10:42 am

    I wish they’d do this for traffic tickets. It’s pretty rough out there.

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  • Alex Reedin July 26, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Based on the anecdotal evidence of having talked to a few cable lock users, most cable lock users in Portland aren’t aware of just how easy it is to cut a cable lock, how prevalent bike theft is here, and how concentrated bike theft is among cable locked bikes.

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    • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 11:10 am

      which is one of many reasons cable locks should not be sold, or if for some reason someone thinks they need to be sold, then only with a disclaimer not to be used as a primary lock for your bike or some such.

      The crazy thing is the backlash one experiences when pointing this out to people who mistakenly locked their bikes with one of these silly excuses for a lock and then had their bike stolen. Of course no one likes to feel like they’ve been had (twice!) but the reality is that we need to do better in the education dept.

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      • emerson July 26, 2017 at 12:44 pm

        People don’t like to be told what to do, or what they’re doing is wrong. It’s a rule that’s applicable everywhere.

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        • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 12:45 pm

          OK, so how do we learn, stop making the same mistakes, over and over?

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          • KTaylor July 26, 2017 at 1:32 pm

            I think the answer to that in modern America would be, we don’t – then whatever someone tried to warn us about happens (for the first or twentieth or sixtieth time), and we go on and on about it as if it’s a completely novel thing that has never happened to anyone else before. An outrage! No one has ever suffered like this before! 🙂

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          • emerson July 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm

            One doesn’t have to be the parent to others.

            My general rule is to withhold advice unless someone could get killed or seriously injured. Even with that I always expect a “thanks bro” or worse.

            Just gotta let it go in those instances.

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        • Chris I July 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm

          Cable lock use is self-correcting. Once the bike is stolen, most users figure it out. For some people, it takes a few times.

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          • David Hampsten July 26, 2017 at 4:06 pm

            If you buy your bike at Walmart or Target, as most buyers do, wouldn’t you also buy your lock there? And what do they offer? Yep, you got it, cable locks…

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            • Kyle Banerjee July 26, 2017 at 6:14 pm

              If you buy your bike at Walmart or Target, why on earth would you buy a decent lock — those would ad 50% to the cost of the bike….

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              • 9watts July 26, 2017 at 6:19 pm

                That is easy.

                …so the bike would have a decent chance of still being there when you come back from wherever you just were. Or do you think people who buy cheap bikes don’t rely on them?

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              • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 5:44 am

                Anyone buying a bike at big box stores is looking for something new that’s cheap, not something new that’s good.

                Those cheap bikes are not cheap to ride. The poor quality and construction makes them difficult and expensive to maintain unless you barely ride them — this is why even very broke cyclists don’t ride them.

                I would think the fact that those bikes are so crappy and neither the bikes nor components have much resale value would be theft deterrent alone. However, they seem to dominate at the chop shops I see.

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              • 9watts July 27, 2017 at 7:09 am

                Before making bold pronouncements about how ignorant those who buy cheap bikes are maybe learn a little about them? I found this article which I’ve cited here before to be very insightful:
                http://www.bicycling.com/culture/advocacy/how-low-income-cyclists-go-unnoticed

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              • Dan A July 27, 2017 at 7:54 am

                The cheap bikes I see in my neighborhood are being bought by cheap adults. Not poor adults — cheap adults. Whenever we have a bike fair here, probably half of the bikes are broken down Magnas or something similar, bought by parents driving Honda Odysseys. They could afford something better for their kids, but they just get whatever is cheapest.

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              • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 12:08 pm

                Bicycling magazine is hardly an authority on anything cycling. When has it ever been anything other than puff pieces and product pushed at casual cyclists?

                Anyone who rides those crummy bikes much will be fixing them constantly. That’s not me being a snob. That’s reality. I used to fix bikes for everyone in my neighborhood. The bikes and parts don’t last at all, so the only way to keep one of those running is to constantly scavenge. Even the frames fail surprisingly often.

                There are a lot of old bikes and old parts that are quite good. These are far cheaper and better than those department store bikes are brand new. People often start out with those kinds of bikes because they want something new and don’t realize how bad they are. But they eventually figure things out on their own.

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              • David Hampsten July 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm

                9watts, thanks for the article link. It was very insightful. I work with folks who fix up donated bikes for the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and inner-city youth here in Greensboro. We try to find good-quality donated bikes, but many of our recipients actually prefer Huffy, Magna, and other equally awful brands, when given a choice. They are awful for us, because they are so hard to repair, or rather repair well, as the rims simply won’t true up, the headset won’t stay tight, etc. When they get nicer bikes, the bikes often end up getting pawned by homeless recipients or stolen when given to refugees, or wrecked against a concrete wall when given to inner-city youth. So against our better judgement, we divvy out bikes not so much as based on need, but more on the ability of recipients to keep the bike: A Huffy is harder to pawn, and no loss if it’s stolen or wrecked. Nicer bikes only go to recipients that are vouched for by other agencies (is working, is reliable, has an apartment, good at taking care of stuff, etc.) Any donated bike that is really nice we fix up and sell, either on consignment at a cooperative bike shop or on Craig’s List, using the money for parts for reconditioning bikes.

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              • 9watts July 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm

                You’re welcome, David.
                I found the article profound. It changed my view of the spectrum of bikes and people who ride them. And your experience sounds very similar to what the author of the piece discovered.
                Too bad Kyle didn’t read it.

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            • Paul Johnson July 27, 2017 at 3:17 pm

              If you’re buying your bike at Freddy’s, Walmart or Target, is there really an expectation it’s going to be around for more than a few days before the purchaser dumps it in the white zone at PDX when they leave? That’s what I do, because it’s cheaper than BIKETOWN or a shop rental for a week, and you can just pick ’em up at the Gateway Transit Center when you’re fresh off the plane from a better city.

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              • Paul Johnson July 28, 2017 at 6:32 pm

                Huh. I guess I’m alone on this. Everyone else doesn’t make enough to leave Portland for a better city or just plain doesn’t go to Portland. Fair. Portland sucks.

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        • rachel b July 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm

          But…I like to tell people what to do. And what they are doing wrong.

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      • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

        Agreed, personally I never let anyone buy a cable lock without explaining to them that they should not be using is as their primary bike security, but rather for locking up other parts to their bike.

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    • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 11:27 am

      What I don’t get is how this is possible. I’ve spent a bit of time in bike shops and never once saw anyone purchase a bike and a cable lock without someone telling them how easy it is to cut through it. Perhaps a lot of these people are not purchasing their locks from bike shops but some big box store or online.

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      • Dan A July 26, 2017 at 1:53 pm
        • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm

          That’s even more amazing someone who likes cycling enough to build a $6,500 bike probably should know that they should be locking it up with about 4 or 5 U locks and even that will only guarantee about 15 minutes of protection 🙂

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          • Dan A July 26, 2017 at 8:38 pm

            It’s pretty amazing that the thieves were at the court beforehand, and then stole the bike right out in front of the County Courthouse, next to a police van.

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            • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 9:11 pm

              I’m not that amazed. People who steal bikes as an opportunity don’t seem like they think things through very much but just see the opportunity in front of their faces and don’t think about the consequences or risk. People who spend $6,500 on a bike and don’t lock it up properly seem like they are very naive about theft or don’t think $6,500 is all that much money.

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              • Paul Johnson July 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm

                Or are used to places where locks are intended to keep honest people honest, not a place where even the bicycle racks themselves are sold for scrap by tweekers.

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            • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 2:31 pm

              I personally would expect a disproportionate number of criminals in the immediate vicinity of a court….

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      • meh July 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm

        Yet here is the bike shop selling the item that they then say is pretty much useless. Why would you sell something you don’t believe in? Or is it a matter of making any buck you can once the customer decides not to pony up for the expensive lock?

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        • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 2:04 pm

          I didn’t say the bike shops said they were useless just that they were easy to cut through. The same shops would say they’re useful for certain situations like when it’s in line of sight or to lock up other things like your saddle or front wheel. And how is it a matter of greed when someone is told that a product isn’t the best and probably shouldn’t be used that way and the person buys it anyway?

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        • pengo July 27, 2017 at 2:14 pm

          In my experience there’s no shortage of people who will find a way to accuse shops of greed no matter the case, and in the most black-and-white terms possible: if you don’t stock cables then you’re greedily offering only the most expensive products and if you do you’re greedily trying to profit off of products that you don’t believe in.

          Often no amount of careful explanation regarding the legitimate but very limited utility of cables will satisfy the customer who needs to believe that somebody’s trying to pull a fast one, and if the bike’s stolen this same customer is the first to blame the shop whose advice they ignored.

          Incidentally, almost the exact same thing happens with regard to the durability of high-quality vs. low-quality tires.

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      • David Hampsten July 26, 2017 at 4:11 pm

        You’re assuming most people buy bikes from bike shops. They don’t. They buy from Walmart, Target, Amazon, online, etc. without ever seeing or talking with a customer service rep, who probably don’t know much about bikes anyway, let alone security.

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        • idlebytes July 27, 2017 at 12:00 am

          I don’t know about you but I don’t see a lot of Huffy’s being ridden around. Maybe they sell more but they aren’t ridden around very much. I can find a bunch rusting in backyards I guess.

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          • SE Rider July 27, 2017 at 12:27 pm

            You don’t ride in east Portland much, I take it?

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            • idlebytes July 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm

              So with that question you’re saying you think most bikes on the road in Portland are cheaper ones purchased at big box stores? I know I can go to a neighborhood with a bunch of kids and see them riding their bikes in the streets but I’ll probably spot a lot more people on bikes purchased from a bike shop on the way then I will kids when I get there.

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    • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      That’s why and time I sell a bike and the person says they have a lock I double check and ask “and it’s not a cable?” Whenever someone says it is, I give them the talk. They don’t always buy a proper lock, but at least I know I tried to save them some heartache down the line.

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  • Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 11:10 am

    This article reminds me that Leroy Parsons (SID# 12403722) earliest release date is coming up on October 11, 2017: http://docpub.state.or.us/OOS/searchCriteria.jsf

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  • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Based on weekly reviews of the stolen bike listings on bikeindex a majority of bikes in Portland appear to be stolen from garages, cars, sheds, patios, “secure” storage in apartments and backyards. In most cases they’re not locked up at all or are locked insecurely to something that can be broken easily like a wooden post. So you may want to consider locking your bike up securely even if it’s on your property somewhere.

    A count for the last week: Out of 18 reports 10 were stolen while on personal property none mentioned they were locked.

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    • SE Rider July 26, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Of course those are the ones that are more likely to be reported on bikeindex.

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      • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm

        Why would those be more likely to be reported on bikeindex? Your comment seems to suggest that if those same people had their bikes stolen while outside they wouldn’t report them. Anyway I posted that comment because I thought it might be useful to people who do the same and don’t think about the number of bike thefts in this city that are just by people poking around private property.

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        • David Hampsten July 26, 2017 at 4:16 pm

          It’s a bit easier making a claim on your renter’s insurance if it’s stolen from your home, shed, garage, etc, than if it’s stolen from Starbucks or Powells, assuming you didn’t insure it separately (and most people don’t). Of course, to make a claim, you’ll likely need to report it to the police too.

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          • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 4:56 pm

            I don’t think that’s what’s going on there at all. The bikeindex site has fields for filling out the police report and it almost never gets filled out. Also home/renters insurance frequently covers your bike if it’s stolen even outside your home so I don’t know why it would be easier if it’s stolen from your home. I’m not saying my review of the bikeindex site is representative of anything other then the site. A majority of people who genuinely would like to get their bike back, enough to post the theft on there, have had them stolen from their property. So maybe it’s a good idea to secure your bike at home too especially if it’s not in your home.

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    • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      I always tell people, even if they have secured bike parking they still need to lock it up. If there’s nothing to lock your bike up to at home, at the very least lock it to itself. There are products available to put anchors into your floors and walls. And they’re not too expensive.

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  • Art Fuldodger July 26, 2017 at 11:39 am

    thank you Portland Wheelmen for your generosity in helping to fund this program!

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  • Brian July 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I thought that was Vanilla Ice’s little brother, Vince Ice. Then I saw the mugshot. Man, the hat and glasses knock twenty years off.

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    • CaptainKarma July 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Haha. I was thinking Trailer Park Boys’ brother to Bubbles.

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      • Brian July 26, 2017 at 12:45 pm

        Good call. I wonder if he is a RUSH fan?

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      • Todd Hudson July 26, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        If that were the case, he’d be stealing broken shopping carts, not bikes.

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  • emerson July 26, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Surely, they are doing God’s work.

    Glad to see this program, and the extra felony charge.

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  • JeffS July 26, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    The DAs will be putting these guys back out on the street with a hand-slap faster than you can lock them up.

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  • buildwithjoe July 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Great article. Headline should read locked bike thief…

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  • Edward July 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    The big huge news is buried in the article:

    New charging policy! They’re finally charging bike thief’s with the right crime! Felony Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle (as opposed to misdemeanor theft 2 or 3). The resale price-point doesn’t cover the heinous nature of stealing somebody’s ride. Stealing a bike is always a felony. It’s the Western ethos of “We hang horse thieves.”

    I’m guessing the new felony charging policy is what enabled the resources for this bait bike program.

    This small thing is big. The game just changed.

    I’d love to know which Multnomah County Deputy DA convinced them to change this charging policy. I’d send that person some kind of super awkward “Thank You!”

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  • K'Tesh July 26, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    I wonder if anything like this can be done to catch the people who steal things like bike seats and wheels off of bikes.

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  • Justin M July 26, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    It’s great that Sanders and his colleagues are working so hard to reduce bike theft in Portland, but maybe we could more effectively tackle the problem with prevention rather than enforcement. We should address the societal causes of things like bike theft and criminality. The money we spend on locking people up would be put to better use in efforts to reduce poverty and homelessness.

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    • JeffS July 26, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      The idea that they wouldn’t steal your bike if you had bought them a bike in the first place?

      F. That.

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      • Justin M July 29, 2017 at 4:03 pm

        The idea is if they had housing then they could access resources to quit the addictions that are so often fed by money made by stealing and selling bikes.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu July 26, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Good idea. And in the meantime, let’s lock up bike thieves!

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  • Dan G July 26, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Now all the bike thieves are going to pass up the bikes locked with cables and go for the U-locked bikes instead. So much for the better-lock-than-the-next-bike strategy.
    “Cable lock, eh? Nice try, Copper.”

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  • rachel b July 26, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Three hours? THREE HOURS???! Guhhnnnn and arghghhh. That’s ridiculous. It should never have reached this point. Grateful for the enforcement now.

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    • Dan A July 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      If cars parked outside were stolen every 3 hours, I think there would be pitchfork mobs marching around.

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      • idlebytes July 26, 2017 at 9:13 pm

        Well stealing a bike with a cable lock is equivalent to stealing a car with the keys in the ignition, the window rolled most of the way up (but your arm still fits through) and the doors locked. Also you can easily take the car apart and sell it on craigslist in a week.

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        • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 12:16 pm

          So securing something with 1/2″ steel cable that someone needs decent sized cutters to get through is equivalent to leaving the keys in the ignition and a car door so someone can just open it?

          Anyone with a rock in their hand has a key to your house and car. And if they’re too fat to climb through a window, tearing a door out of its frame, deadbolts or not, is easy enough with a crowbar that doesn’t weigh any more than the cutters these people use to steal bikes.

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          • idlebytes July 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm

            I think you’re taking me a little too literally. Just trying to make the point that cars as built are much more difficult to steal then a bike secured with a half inch steal cable. The ignition alone is more of a hurdle then even a u-lock. Anyone with $20 could steal a bike locked with a cable. A crowbar may get you in the car but it’s not going to allow you to steal the car.

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            • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 2:59 pm

              Older cars can be started with a screwdriver — all you need to do is break the ignition lock. It is only recently that cars have decent security on them, and thieves have been upping their game and can hack into some of the electronic systems.

              With cable cutters and simple tools that fit in your pockets, anyone can strip everything of value off a U-locked bike. The reality is that it takes a lot to deter anything more than a moderate effort.

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              • idlebytes July 27, 2017 at 3:09 pm

                What’s the point of bringing up 20+ year old cars into this discussion? Again just trying to make the point that cars as built are much more difficult to steal then a bike secured with a half inch steal cable and they’re easier to sell. All of this in relation to Dan’s original post comparing bait bikes being stolen in 3 hours to cars.

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              • Kyle Banerjee July 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm

                The idea that cables are almost like not locking is built on the premise that we expect people wandering around with cutters looking for stuff to steal. Once you’ve taken a “reasonable” precaution to prevent something from getting swiped, it’s time to turn attention to those doing the swiping. Most things are incredibly easy to steal.

                U-locks provide more protection than cables, but they protect only the frame and a wheel at best and are still defeatable. You don’t need to be an expert — I’ve done it myself. Boats along the Willamette are easier to steal than bikes, and even if newer cars are harder to steal, getting to anything inside is super easy whether or not it’s locked in a bin or glove box. Breaking into most things is very easy.

                For some reason, bikes are expected to have a much higher level of security than anything else.

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            • emerson July 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm

              It was a bad point.

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      • Paul Johnson July 27, 2017 at 3:40 pm

        Which makes me wonder why O locks aren’t more common…greatly simplifies locking. Big-ass chain or U-lock through the frame and front wheel, set the O-lock on the rear wheel.

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        • Paul Johnson July 28, 2017 at 6:36 pm

          Or is Portland more of a “I prefer to carry U-locks even if, while primary, only supplementary to a real O-lock” city? If so, then, a big part of Portland that doesn’t use O-locks has itself to blame.

          Kind of furthers my theory that smart people leave Oregon for literally anywhere other than Oregon, California, Washington or Mississippi as soon as they’re economically capable of doing so.

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          • David Hampsten July 28, 2017 at 8:33 pm

            I’m glad you think I’m smart. My ego just got raised ever so slightly. It is nice living in a community here in NC where bike theft is relatively rare, even if everything else involving bikes kinda sucks.

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  • Pete July 26, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Kudos to Officer Sanders and the bike theft task force.

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  • ray July 26, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    this is akin to being tough on crime and supporting the ‘war on drugs’ it doesn’t solve the problem, but treats the symptoms. I ride a specialized hard rock i bought on craigslist for 150 (i know i overpaid but it had a second tire-set, rack, and handlebar bag) it gets me everywhere i need to go and if someone steals it, they deserve to be seen riding it. karma works. I do not really feel sorry for people that ride 1000 dollar bikes, and baiting junkies with high end bikes just to justify police draconian policies and tag some homeless guy with a felony is insane. If you think this is a good idea you’re delusional. It will never stop bike theft anymore than locking junkies up for felony drug use will stop people doing drugs. This is solving a problem with another problem. The cure is worse than the disease.

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    • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      This is the definition of draconian. What kind of hеll do we live in where you can’t even go around cutting locks and nicking bikes without fear of being caught?

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  • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 6:04 am

    I’m glad they’re doing this. The absolutely ridiculous theft situation is a deterrent to riding. On the plus side, it is an incentive to use bike share.

    I am curious why people here are so quick to come down on cyclists who buy cable locks. The word “victim blaming” gets thrown around a lot on this blog — if the term doesn’t apply when someone is a victim of an intentional crime that requires tools, I don’t know when it should.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think cable locks are a bad idea — I have a very good lock, but won’t lock a decent bike outside for more than a few minutes unless I can see it.

    However, I do think it’s weird to be so quick to condemn motorists for doing things like hitting an unlit cyclist they genuinely didn’t see and specifically didn’t want to hit and feel awful about it, but criticize cyclists who did in fact lock their bikes which were then stolen very deliberately.

    One thing that would help is that if secure bike racks which I’ve seen elsewhere but never in Portland or better yet, bike lockers (even for a fee) could be provided. That these things are unavailable in the highest bike theft areas of the city is ridiculous.

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    • Dan A July 27, 2017 at 7:39 am

      I completely agree.

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  • Paul Johnson July 27, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Portland being Portland, I’m surprised it took that long. When I was going to furmeets at The Roxy, I’d park at the staple just out front so I could keep an eye on it and if I couldn’t park in view of the windows, I just would skip that furmeet. And I’d still have to run people off.

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  • Vance Longwell July 27, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Entrapment. Might as well burn the Constitution instead of buying a lock and taking responsibility to protect your own interests; and at your own expense!

    You bikypeople ceaselessly amaze me.

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    • 9watts July 27, 2017 at 9:01 am

      hey, you’re back!

      Entrapment?!
      This is what outrages you?

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    • Paul Johnson July 27, 2017 at 9:07 am

      For it to be entrapment, the police would need to give them the idea to steal the bike. At least based on the information available, this is not entrapment. This is catching people who are stealing bikes under their own volition.

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    • idlebytes July 27, 2017 at 10:12 am

      It’s not entrapment. The bike was locked they came to it with the tools to break the lock so they were intending to steal the bike. Entrapment is when the police induce someone who wouldn’t otherwise commit a crime to do so. So maybe if the bike was unlocked on the street overnight that would be entrapment.

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      • Paul Johnson July 27, 2017 at 10:39 am

        And have a sign on it that said STEAL THIS BIKE or a cop telling ’em that it would be an easy steal or something like that. Just not being locked isn’t enough to be considered entrapment.

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    • Chris I July 27, 2017 at 11:59 am

      I’m sure he thinks that speed cameras are also entrapment. ie: he doesn’t understand the meaning of the word.

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    • Dan A July 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      The Constitution itself is on display. If somebody burns it, is that entrapment too?

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      • Alan 1.0 July 27, 2017 at 9:36 pm

        U-lock or cable?

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    • El Biciclero July 28, 2017 at 9:15 am

      My grandpa—decidedly not a bikey person—used to say that locks were there to help keep an honest boy honest. So if a bike is sitting there, indistinguishable from other bikes, and somebody comes up and tries to steal it by cutting a lock, I have to question the honesty of that person, regardless of who put the bike there.

      Now, if enough of this kind of thing happens (bait bike theft arrests), then I might be able to go buy a stupid crabon fibre “race” bike and lock it up with a cable, ‘cuz the local thieves will be suspicious that any bike that nice locked with a cable must be a bait bike and leave it alone…

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    • emerson July 28, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Way off the mark there Vance.

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  • Spiffy July 27, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I doubt that a felony charge is going to be any deterrent since many thieves already have plenty of felonies on their record…

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  • Bald One July 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I like the Bait Bike idea, but not so sure that this is the best use of tax payer $s in Portland, where the stolen bike network is on full display, everyday. I think it is very easy to observe the stolen bike system in this town, and very easy to round up stolen bikes, bike chop shops, stolen bike sellers and fencers. The folks who actually steal the bike may be harder to find (and this touches on some above comments about charging drug addicts with felonies), but why turn a blind eye to the very visible chop shops and possession of stolen property crimes that are plainly in sight for everyone to see. This morning, just like every morning in recent memory, the 7-8 AM ride through the central east side MUP network yielded easy and casual observation of multiple locations each featuring multiple individuals actively engaged in chopping up last night’s haul of stolen bikes from around the city. Actively engaged. Many people. Many locations. Every day. City clearly ignores this and lets this go on. And yet, PPB are engaging in advanced technology to show them the very obvious. With Bait Bike, they are able to find the one stolen bike in an ocean of stolen bikes. Why is this efficient use of tax $s? How is this an effective anti-theft disincentive in Portland? The thieves here have an active criminal network – a system for stealing bikes, transporting stolen bikes, trading stolen bikes, chopping stolen bikes, selling stolen bikes and bike parts. They are organized. Stolen bikes are a currency used on the street and maintained and valued by a criminal organization. The police are just messing around with a shiny new toy.

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  • Collin July 27, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    This is great work, but slapping someone with a felony on their record for life, or up to 7 years, making it that much harder for them to find gainful employment and further stigmatizing them after serving their time in jail is perhaps not the best idea, nor are felonies any kind of deterrent for a (likely) drug addict looking for their next fix.

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    • rachel b July 27, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      Well, what the hell DO we do, then? Just forgive and look the other way any time someone does something asshatted that rightfully should land them in jail, because the consequences will be unpleasant or difficult for them? When on earth did we come to this??? If you’re being a douchebag and taking advantage of others and committing a crime, I think it’s only right you suffer the consequences of your own repugnant actions, your own awful choices. The alternative is chaos. The impact on this city from looking the other way and being wanly, unhelpfully, wrongheadedly “merciful” is writ large. Behold: the Shitshow Portland has become.
      (apologies for the vehemence, Collin)

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      • emerson July 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm

        Come now. Maybe we should give them a cookie and a stern lecture… and then turn out head as they steal the next bike.

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        • rachel b July 30, 2017 at 10:46 pm

          Finally. Some sense! 😉

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    • Chris I July 28, 2017 at 7:37 am

      7 years in jail is a great way to get sober.

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      • Edward July 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

        Nobody gets 7 years in jail for stealing a bike, even when treated as a felony. Even as a repeat property offender that’s more than a Measure-11 crime.

        But here’s a bigger policy question: Where to spend limited state dollars? Locking people up at $35k – $44k per year? Or better treatment? Or how many (and which) lengthy prison sentences would you shorten or commute to come up with $2.5 million for your own favorite ppet project for bike infrastructure?

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        • Dan A July 28, 2017 at 10:15 am

          I would spend the money on installing bike lockers all over the city that could be rented out.

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  • Edward July 27, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    If the presumption is that bike theft is a felony — that’s what will have the biggest consequences.

    A lot will flow from this policy change. If the police know that the DA’s office considers bike theft to be a felony as a default starting position, they’re more likely to put some resources into following up. Maybe some of those chop-shops would get taken down. If it’s not serious and an officer makes an arrest at a chop shop s/he’s just created a lot of work for nothing. Collect and clean up all the presumably stolen stuff, document each item, send to the evidence department, write reports with details. That’s a lot of work for something nobody thinks is serious and would get declined as a “why bother” by the intake unit at the DA’s office. But if it’s a serious felony … then there’s presumptive resources.

    Felonies get assigned to more experienced and more senior DA’s. Felonies get a P.O. who is more likely to actually supervise and try to make sure that some things like treatment happen. Sometimes the limited treatment dollars don’t give the misdemeanants a chance to get in.

    I’m not normally in favor of increased punishment just to look tough. And depending on the sentencing guidelines, some felonies actually get less punishment than misdemeanors. But as a misdemeanor (i.e., not important to anybody in law enforcement), it otherwise seems that bike theft is a crime with almost zero downside. Sure the economics are awful, but who cares when there’s basically zero risk?

    Something has to be done to start to put a dent in the underground economy of bike thievery. I would agree that just sticking people in prison doesn’t work. We have no rehabilitation in our prisons and they’re too full. But it’s still a serious crime that should get treated seriously through the whole entire system.

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  • Steve Scarich July 28, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The crucial word in the whole piece is ‘felony’. If a felony conviction is actually obtained, and the judge gives the perp jail time, we might have something here.

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