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Portland’s most prolific bike thief steals again, gets 25 months in prison

Posted by on August 16th, 2018 at 8:36 pm

Bikes found at Parsons’ camp in inner northeast Portland late last month.
(Photos: Multnomah County DA/PPB)

“I think it’s a big win for the community.”
— Officer Dave Sanders, PPB Bike Theft Task Force

A man who has been booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center 80 times over a 20-year career and is considered the kingpin of bike theft in Portland is behind bars.

Again.

Leroy Parsons, who once boasted about his bike theft skills in a local television interview, has been given a 25-month prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation.

“I think it’s a big win for the community,” said Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force Officer Dave Sanders, in a statement published by the District Attorney’s Office today. “For the last 10 years, he’s been one of the pillars in downtown who networks stolen bikes.”

Parsons was at the top of what Sanders says is a “bike trafficking network” where accomplices would steal bikes throughout Portland and then take them to a central hub where Parsons would work in a tent encampment to “chop” the bikes (take them apart to make them impossible to identify) and then resell them.

Sanders said the motivation was often to sell or trade the bikes for drugs. Bicycles are considered valuable “street currency” because they are readily available, easy to steal (when people are careless), and easy to sell.

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In December 2015 we reported on a 30-month prison sentence for Parsons — an unprecedented amount of time for the offense of stealing bicycles. At that time a former Multnomah County Senior Deputy DA included a list of special conditions that Parsons would have to abide by for five years after his release.

As per the conditions, Parsons was not allowed to possess a long list of specific items — including bicycles — without advanced written permission from his probation officer.

Last month Sanders and other officers from the PPB Bike Theft Task Force were following up on a bike theft case when they found Parsons sleeping inside a tent at NE 11th and Irving.

“I could see into his tent even without opening it and I could see stacks of electronics, tablets, phones, drug paraphernalia, bike parts, bike tools, all of which are violations of his probation,” Sanders said.

The PPB arrested Parsons on July 28th for being in possession of stolen property and being in violation of his probation. He was ultimately charged with the probation violation and on August 8th, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Eric L. Dahlin sentenced Parsons to 25 months in prison for the violation.

Parsons is far from the only prolific bike thief in Portland, but Sanders says getting him out of the mix could shake things up. And hopefully word travels that our local DA is serious about bike theft.

Nice work Officer Sanders and all the PPB officers and staff that support this work! Your dedication and commitment to the community is very appreciated.

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

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Mark Allyn
Guest

Good work! We need a good sentencing like that here in Bellingham. Also, please all check the racks on which you lock your bikes. I almost lost mine on racks that were not fastened to the ground at all. I took a video of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz5TeG6e1u0&t=23s

Andrew Squirrel
Guest
Andrew Squirrel

Mark, I love your video. Did you compose and perform that song yourself?

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

He will not be missed. Too bad this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I feel bad for all the people who have lost bikes who depend on them for transport and sometimes even their livelihood.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Another non-violent offender in prison costing between $35,000 and $50,000 per year. And he’s back out in a couple years (after learning a few new tricks of the trade). Guess what he’ll be doing when he gets out?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

The police know where the major tent camps are. It is hard to conceal a pile of bikes and parts and bikes flowing in and out. If this guy resumes bike chopping after his release, the police can find and arrest him fairly quickly. As long as the DA and courts are willing to lock him up for 30 months each time, he won’t actually be on the street for much of his criminal life.

The main risk (from the perspective of someone who wants to see bike theft punished) is that Portland decides to stop police from enforcing laws in the homeless population.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

He’ll be back out on the streets warning other theifs about the risks and consequences of stealing.

PomPilot
Guest
PomPilot

More like the consequences of getting caught. IF you get caught.

Dween
Guest
Dween

Imagine if you had 10 bike thieves like this. And $800,000 to work with them for two years. Is jail the best we can come up with?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

If he steals just 5 bikes a week, at $500 average cost, that adds up to $130,000 in monetary loss for the citizens of this city. Even $50,000 per year to keep this guy behind bars sounds like a deal to me.

Evan Reeves
Guest
Evan Reeves

This is not a game of economics, this is punishment for the fact that he broke the law. What are you getting after here? Are you suggesting that you’d rather have him not serve jail time because it costs that much to house an inmate? I would find it hard to defend that line of thinking when this person clearly has a long, repetitive criminal history.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

What he’s getting after may be kind of a forward looking thing, but it’s probably along the lines of the current prison system not being a good deal for the general public in terms of costs versus results, and that maybe other tactics could do better.

For instance, while you might not be able to do much reform with a mass murderer, maybe you can divert an accomplished thief’s skill and discipline into something that would benefit society. And maybe you could do it for less than prison costs. But agreed, it’s a big maybe.

JJ
Guest
JJ

Sounds like folks that haven’t had bikes stolen and not able to exercise and or get to work etc..

That can change perspective pretty quickly.

Plus these bike thieves are cogs in the street crime/drug trade/homeless hub that is downtown PDX. Eliminating or thwarting these individuals helps to reduce overall crime.

I get that there are other violent crimes out there, but law enforcement isn’t the problem. Humanity is. Law enforcement and their focus is a reflection of the issues present in a community and the politicians that control them.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

I’ve had four bikes stolen over the years.

“Not be able to” exercise or get to work? That’s pretty shrill. Less convenient, sure.

Yep, having a bike stolen can change your perspective, but not necessarily in a good way that a person should give in to. It plays on our fear and anger, and then we feel and act irrationally. Lot of that going around in citizenship and public life these days. Behooves us to guard our hearts and minds.

9watts
Subscriber

Well said!

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

Guess what he’d be doing if he wasn’t in jail…

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Knitting yarns for the alternatively conscienced?

Chris
Guest
Chris

Curious, what would you suggest as a better action?

NC
Guest
NC

Need to stick him in for a whole lot longer then.

esther2
Guest
esther2

Nonviolent but not victimless

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

It is unfortunate that Portland Police have nothing better to do than harass the houseless. They should be going after the real criminals. When 50% of the arrests are of the houseless, there is something wrong with the compassion of this city.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Is this comment satire? This article is about them arresting a “houseless” prolific bike thief. He is costing our city over $100,000 per year in stolen bikes. This is exactly what the police should be doing.

m
Guest
m

As a reminder to those who didn’t get the memo, in the 24-36 months Portland has turned into a place where the houseless are supposed to be subject to a different criminal code simply because they are houseless. If you have a problem with this new normal, you are an unsympathetic elitist and, as applicable, also a racist.

Beth
Guest
Beth

Let’s also remember that this fellow is not only prolific, but unrepentant. He has talked about his crimes with all the regret of a toddler getting caught taking another cookie, and all the bravado of a teenager whose incomplete brain is keeping him from caring about the consequences of his actions. If there are no other resources available to keep this man from being homeless again, then what are his options when he serves his sentence?

Hello?

No one is winning here. No one.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Even if he gets housing, I see no reason to think he’ll become a lawful citizen. He is, as you say, unrepentant.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

I don’t understand how people who live in Portland can have a hard time understanding why so many homeless people are arrested.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

Just imagine if all of the houseless stopped spending money on several bicycles and applied it to housing.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

Billyjo, for the sake of educating the rest of us can you please define what characteristics define a “real” criminal? I assume from your comment that Mr. Leroy Parsons does not qualify.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Are you out of touch with reality?? There is definitely something wrong with the compassion of this city, it is misplaced on bums and vagrants who take advantage of it and chronically break the law!! They are not even worth their weight in bio-fuel.

meh
Guest
meh

Ah the usual statistical bafflegab. Using the general population breakdown to make it look like the police are biased.

If the general population applied to all abilities, disabilities, good deeds and bad, well then the NBA would be 53% white and the NFL would be 1% Asian.

How about looking at the statistically correct population of those who commit crime.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

I’ve always been bafflegabbed by the assumption that all different social, economic and cultural groups are supposed to be equal outcomes in behaviors.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

On the plus side, this guy has a “house” now.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

yay!

Matt S
Guest
Matt S

And food, clothing, medical/dental care. This is why jail is so expensive. However, inmates should be entitled to these services.

Art Fuldodger
Guest
Art Fuldodger

And it’s a big one…

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Well done 🙂

PomPilot
Guest
PomPilot

But for how long this time? The 2015 conviction was for 30 months, with a possible minimum of 18 months, (and the balance if he violated his parole). Obviously he got out early and was on parole. Well, he violated that (likely within the first few weeks), and received a 25 month sentence after getting caught (how long was he out before getting caught this time). What will be the minimum amount of time he has to serve this go around? How about the full 25 months, plus the remaining portion of his earlier sentence. And no time off for “good behavior”.

bdog
Guest
bdog

Nothing better to do? This arrest was made by the “PPB Bike Theft Task Force.” They literally have nothing better to do then stop the “real” crime of stealing bikes.

Matt S
Guest
Matt S

My bicycles are my most prized assets. I take care when locking them up, but if they were ever to get stolen I would hope the police would try their best to get them back for me. And I definitely would want an individual like Mr. Parsons arrested. Maybe a jail sentence could entail sitting and cleaning donated Children’s bikes for the annual Community Cycle Center Holiday Bike Drive.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

It’s time for my outburst about the word houseless. I just don’t think it’s doing any good.

Complaint 1) It’s accurate, but about the wrong thing. Example: I’m houseless myself. (But luckily, I’m apartmentful.) Retired couples who live in RVs: also houseless. Is house-having status really the thing anybody cares about here? Are we trying to muster social programs targeted to help snowbirds and renters? Or could it be those groups are a wee bit irrelevant? The only thing I or anyone watching the issue cares about is whether you’re living on the street or not. Or in other words, whether you lack a permanent place you return to. Or in other words, whether you lack a home. Or in other words, whether you’re homeless.

Complaint 2) I assume the goal of renaming something is to transform our relationship with it, but that’s not happening. “Janie stay away from those filthy homel… hey wait a minute, they don’t lack a home, they just lack a _house_!” *Lightbulb?* *Tectonic shift in understanding and compassion?* “Janie stay away from those filthy houseless and their drug needles!”

It’s one of the silliest attempts at “rebranding” I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few. Actually you can traipse a veritable graveyard of old, now-unfashionable terms for this same phenomenon: vagrant, vagabond, beggar, bum; or somewhat more romantically: wanderer, hobo, tramp, rover, traveler etc. You know they used to call the mentally handicapped “morons” back in the day – and without a trace of insult to it either; that was literally just the word for it. But it seems when a name starts to actually mean the thing it describes, it’s time to change it again. Which of course does nothing to change the thing itself, it just makes it easier for people to virtue-signal. Oh I’m all for renaming “morons” to a menu of medical-ish diagnoses as our understanding about the brain improves (surprisingly little, it turns out, but anyway) over time. But I’m not necessarily seeing an improvement in our understanding of homelessness, and anyway there’s emphatically no reason to attribute it all to the absence of a _house_. That’s a step _backward_ in understanding.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I was going to say it, but I wouldn’t have said it this well.

I didn’t realize “vagabond” out of fashion. Thanks for the tip, guvnor.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

It’s about not including people in a stereotype that don’t belong there. Not all people on the street are without a home (a place to return every day) but many are without an actual house or apartment. There are people on the street by choice who have an encampment and are not homeless. And there are people sleeping in doorways who have nowhere to go that are actually homeless.

Some of these people choose to live a life on the streets rather than conform to the restrictions of a society. And there are those that are trying hard to make it so that can get off the streets or out of the tents.

People are using the term houseless because it’s not always possible to look at somebody and know what their situation is. And some street urchins will get physical with you if you classify them with your stereotypes.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

How does “houseless” help?

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

How about voluntary and involuntary homeless then?

JJ
Guest
JJ

Billy…you obviously have not toured the camps under the bridges and a few more unsavory areas. This is not a houseless issue. It is a drug related condition that needs to be treated with law enforcement, mental health care, and drug treatment. Now…where all that cash comes from to do this I have no idea. A good starting point might be to stop allowing people to camp in the city. Perhaps offer collectives and farms as alternatives with centralized care facilities. NO easy solutions but what is happening now isn’t working.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I suggest people take a look at the Multnomah County info page on needle exchange:
https://multco.us/hiv-and-std-services/questions-about-syringe-exchange

“The syringe exchange programs offered through Multnomah County and Outside In served more than 6,500 clients in calendar year 2017, and collected more than 5.5 million syringes, with a return rate of about 100 percent.”

“…About 70 percent of exchange clients report experiencing homelessness or unstable housing.”

With a police staffing shortage, underfunded mental health/drug addiction services, and unaffordable housing, it’s no surprise we have people living on the streets like we do.

jeff
Guest
jeff

the PP are responding to complaints and calls from neighbors and business owners regarding the behavior of the homeless. Maybe if they didn’t openly inject drugs in city parks and sleep on neighborhood parking strips in front of homes, they wouldn’t have the police called on them. I welcome their “harassment”…hell, I even invite it on occasion.

esther2
Guest
esther2

It is dehumanizing to hold people without houses to a different standard, to treat them as lesser humans who are below the law.

matchupancakes
Guest
matchupancakes

Work-rehab away from the urban centers such as trail maintenance in the far corners of southeast Oregon or firewatch along the Cascades would be a better use of the state’s limited funds and for offenders’ life options. It is good news that Parsons will not be devastating the local communities for the next couple of years, but it is too easy to reestablish poor social networks for support and survival upon release that affirm the behaviors that put the individual into the criminal justice system in the first place.

Matt S
Guest
Matt S

Logistically, what would this look like and how much would this cost? Placing career criminals out in nature is going to require constant supervision, probably entailing armed law enforcement. Do you create a chain-gang to inhibit escape, wouldn’t that be unethical ? Do you roll out RVs to house everyone? Do you build a massive secure complex (jail) next to nature to achieve the end result? How do you mitigate the liability of keeping everyone safe?

I see what you’re saying, placing non-violent property crime offenders out in nature for rehabilitation. Wait, I think this was a Texas Walker Ranger Episode. Oh yeah, the kid tried to escape and Chuck Norris had to use his karate-cowboy skills…

dan
Guest
dan

Work-rehab is a fine idea, but having this guy be solely responsible for firewatch in a given area seems pretty destined to misfortune. Trail maintenance I could get behind, but wonder if you would get any useful work out of this guy in particular

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Inmate fire crews (grep bait) are in use right now – thousands of ’em, millions of hours per year. Inmates do other community service activities, too. Whether or not Parsons is eligible for or amenable to such work are open questions. Some factoids of CA’s program are here:

https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/9-things-to-know-about-californias-inmate-firefighters/103-582161022

Jon
Guest
Jon

Clearly we are spending too much to jail criminals. There are a couple of ways to address this issue. One is to jail fewer people and the other is to lower the cost of jail time. There are many places in the world where it only costs a few dollars a day to imprison them. I suspect that there are many such countries that would be happy to house our inmates for $3,000 per year. If we are willing to buy an imported bicycle to save money why not export a prisoner to save us money? Exported prisoners combined with gps tracking/house arrest for non-violent offenders could save us billions.

Maddy
Guest
Maddy

Just. No.

Privatizing prisons leads to abuses while the corporations chase a profit. Privatizing ambulances results in slower response time. I’m all for capitalism, but privatizing public services is the worst. And you want to outsource out of country??? C’mon!

soren
Guest
soren

“Parsons is far from the only prolific bike thief in Portland, but Sanders says getting him out of the mix could shake things up. And hopefully word travels that our local DA is serious about bike theft.”

Expensive, intermittent, and largely ineffectual enforcement is like pissing into the wind. As our society continues to become ever more unequal, theft is bound to increase. Unless we are willing to live in a police state, punishing people as a means of social change is nothing more than an exercise in sadism.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Do you really think Parsons stole because of “inequality”? I know it doesn’t fit neatly into a social justice framing, but I think the real issue here might be “drugs”.

Prison time in this case hardly seems sadistic. Sanders doesn’t sound like a repentant person who made a bad decision, now facing a vengeful society, he sounds like someone running a criminal enterprise with intention, encouraging others to steal for him. That’s exactly the kind of person who should be in prison. Less for “social change” than because it’s hard to steal bikes and run a chop shop in jail.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

People turn to drugs to deal with the inequality they face.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That statement is an excellent example of self-parody.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

And many now face inequity because they started using drugs to begin with.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

There is a difference between stealing something to get buy and being a career criminal like Mr. Parsons.

There is also a difference between a “police state” and having a sufficient amount of policing. A Police State would be one where you can’t chew gum, not one where bike thieves are arrested and punished.

Mr. Parsons has stolen from hundreds of other people. This man is not a victim of society, he victimizes society.

I have zero issues with harshly punishing someone like a Mr. Parsons. He’s not a fallen little angel just trying to get by and is not going to change. Mr. Parsons has admitted he has no desire to change.

While I appreciate your attempt to turn this into a class issue as seems to be your wont, some people are just bad people and it has nothing to do with economic status.

9watts
Subscriber

“some people are just bad people”

Utterly absurd though all too common belief.

Screwed up, unrepentant, a menace, sure.
But your broad brush write off of a class of people doesn’t serve anyone.

How is it that other, more equal, countries produce so many fewer ‘so-called’ bad people, and don’t therefore have to deal with the bother and expense of housing them in secure facilities like we seem to? Your reductionist logic may make you feel superior but it doesn’t make for good social policy, as we are finding out.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

He wasn’t writing off a class. He was making an assertion about Parsons. Disagree with that case if you like, but some people are just bad. It is not a ridiculous idea. You can find people like that everywhere.

9watts
Subscriber

“He wasn’t writing off a class. He was making an assertion about Parsons.”

He was assigning Parsons to the class of ‘bad people.’ I reject the designation, which suggests a writing off to me – does it not to you?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I suppose that depends on Parsons. While he’s figuring it out, better he be not stealing more bikes. If you know a better way than jail, please suggest it to the judge, who is the only one in any position to affect the situation.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

oops – “get by”

Alfredo Bonnano
Guest
Alfredo Bonnano

It’s always disappointing to see bike advocacy devolve into quasi- right-wing championing of police. As long as people are homeless bike theft will continue – no matter how many people you lock up. Prison time will never fix the problem of bike theft and people who champion it are letting their moral myopia obscure real solutions.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I don’t champion the police; I champion not have my bike stolen. I don’t think Parsons stole because he was homeless, he stole for drugs. Plenty of housed people do the same.

I think we can acknowledge the flaws in our justice system while at the same time not turning a blind eye to a prolific thief. I would be genuinely interested in what the “real solutions” are; if there’s a way to prevent theft without prison, all the much better for everyone.

9watts
Subscriber

“not turning a blind eye to a prolific thief.”

Did anyone suggest this?

Straw men….

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Bike theft is not caused by homelessness.

9watts
Subscriber

But inequality produces both, and more.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

What I want to understand better is closely but maybe not directly related. It’s clear that houseless camps often are bike chop-shops, but what’s apparent is stockpiles of poor to mediocre parts and frames (or formerly decent stuff in poor to mediocre condition) that ought to be hard to sell and can’t be sold for much — with maybe some lucky exceptions. So what’s the point? In the houseless sphere, are those parts invested with value as a kind of currency? (7-speed indexing-compatible rear derailleur = X number of cigarettes, for instance?)

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Money is definitely being made, but you are also witnessing destruction of wealth at these chop shops. When a working bike is torn down, spray painted, and left to sit out in the rain for months, that is just destruction of value. These chop shops are a travesty, and I can’t believe our city government permits it to continue. Bikes are a means of transportation. Every time one is stolen, someone loses one of their modal options; sometimes even their primary option. The economic cost of bike theft is very high.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

See, that’s just it. Because wealth/value is being destroyed (working bikes are being converted to separate pieces of dubious quality and condition), I don’t think we can just assume that “money is definitely being made” — hence my query. I’d love to hear why you have certainty.

I suspect maybe value is being converted into a different system in which crappy bike parts, though not worth much cash, become currency themselves. Maybe a little like Bitcoin mining. But that’s just a hypothesis.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

For a variety of popular opinion/news reports try a google search like this:

bikes as currency

For more academic studies, try a similar, but more high-falutin’ query, on scholar.google.com:

economics of bicycle theft

Stph

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

Thanks but these don’t really do the job — because they only talk about what happens when a stolen bike stays whole. I’m interested in what justifies camps’ stockpiles of dubious-quality, dubious-condition parts that would seem to have very low demand and thus be hard to sell. (The NPR article does have one sentence near the top acknowledging chopping, but then veers off into whole bikes.)

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

some random thoughts on that. totally WAG on price just to illustrate concept…

Whole bike … $25

Wheel … $10
Bars/stem … $10
Pedals … $5/pr
Rack … $5
Misc (light, computer, etc) … $5/ea
Frame … $15
Total parts: … $50

Risk: Only the frame has s/n to identify stolen property; chopped bike less recognizable to owner

Liquidity/marketability: target market may not have $25 but might have $5; t.m. might have less qualms about parts v. whole bike

Portability/storage: easier to transport or conceal 4 wheels than whole 2 bikes

Psych factors: boredom, sense of productivity/skill, attempt at evasion/denial

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

wheels @ $10 x2 => Total $60. (comment awaiting moderation)

David Burns
Guest
David Burns

I’ve been assuming that whole, stolen bikes have a negative value in that their possessor might be jailed if the owner sees / identifies the bike and calls the cops. A chop shop might take 10 stolen bikes worth $500 each and make 2 unidentifiable bikes (and leave a bunch of junk for someone else to clean up), for a value of a couple hundred dollars (and a cost to the legit owners totaling $5000 or so.)

So yes, someone IS making money by destroying value.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

No doubt something like that happens — and happens very quickly, based on the articles that Steph pointed to. But then the remaining “bunch of junk” seems to be retained and sometimes even organized, as if it had intrinsic value that outweighed its risk as circumstantial evidence. That’s the part I wonder about.

JJ
Guest
JJ

Both ferrous and non-ferrous has value on the streets and plenty of companies around town that take both and give cash or cash value as long as you have an ID.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Not perfectly applicable, but if I am buying a bike it costs more to do it part by part…so sometimes the sum of the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

I agree as far as parts that someone _would want to buy_ — but what I see is a lot of banged-up Shimano Tourney-series or worse that ought to be in very low demand among the housed, and thus hard to sell. If I saw Deore, Tiagra, X5 (and better), it would be easier to understand.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

…demand among the housed…

Not all chopped parts consumers are housed – plenty of commerce among unhoused – and not everyone’s looking for better parts. I’ve purchased adequate but low-end parts to keep older bikes rolling for low bucks. I buy used parts from citybikes.coop and communitycyclingcenter.org but some housed folks do sketchy things like buying chopped parts.

Another thought is, that segment of the blackmarket has lots of folks that are not known for making the best, most rational decisions. Hoarding, unrealistic expectations, and poor business plans happen…and yeah, it can be hard to understand from a different perspective than those caught up in that scene.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

That helps, thanks! I buy repair-grade parts at City and such too, and it’s hard to imagine going to a chop-camp instead (“No, I need this for a 28.6 mm seat tube, not 34.9. Don’t you have that?”), but I can wrap my head around hoarding, great expectations and failed plans. I do still wonder about the idea of crappy parts as alternate currency though.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

“No, I need this for a 28.6 mm seat tube, not 34.9. Don’t you have that?”

:rofl:

“We can order that for you and you can pick it up in thirty minutes at our Springwater tent.”

I do still wonder about the idea of crappy parts as alternate currency though.

It is weird from my POV, too, but I guess neither of us are living in their shoes. There are lots of anecdotes about it, for example search {blackmarket currency bicycles sex drugs}.

David Hampsten
Guest

There’s also a bunch of bike part distributors that cater to the low-end market such as J&B, North American, Midway, and others (but not Quality). At some point even chop-shop entrepreneurs need cables, housing, and that odd spring doodad for that 1987 Deore U-brake.

I am myself very protective of my bikes, as I never learned to drive and am primarily dependent upon them for nearly all my transport (aside from using transit), using the best locks I can afford, locking them in secure locations, and successfully avoiding Portland for the past 31 months.

However, I am saddened that there exists in Portland a vast network of industrious chop-shop mechanics who are homeless. While I have no doubt that many steal and engage in this industry for drug addictions, I suspect that boredom and a sense of being industrious contribute more to their being active participants. While I don’t condone any thefts, your chop-shoppers do contribute to society by keeping such houseless folks productive and they prevent many such bikes from ending up in the landfill and/or police bicycle bins.

Too bad we couldn’t just put such people to work at a living wages, stripping and repairing unwanted and unloved bikes, for needy folks in our poorer neighborhoods nationwide or in Ghana.

jeff
Guest
jeff

if money/value wasn’t being made from bike theft it wouldn’t be happening there, capt. obvious. its only happening because they is value in doing so.

Cpt. Obvus
Guest
Cpt. Obvus

No doubt “they is” money/value made from stealing and flipping an intact bike, or cheaply selling a chopped and reassembled frankenbike. The more specific question was why low-end parts in dubious condition seem to be retained and organized as if they had intrinsic value on their own, almost as if they were used as currency themselves. See the surrounding discussion for some thoughtful answers … and some reflexive ones.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Hoarding mentality. Someday, this thing may be worth something, to someone. When the means to an end is all about acquiring drugs, there’s always hope that you can make that trade.

bridger
Guest
bridger

As you acknowledged earlier in the thread, hoarding and dubious decision making is the most valid answer. The camps that feature piles of junky bike parts also feature piles of other junk that has zero market value.

If you’ve ever really looked at the franken-bikes these folks ride, you’ll notice the work is typically not exactly top notch. It’s more than spray paint and dented frames. Things “sort of” fit and there are regularly missing parts (especially brakes) so yeah, there probably is some value in random low-end parts within the community. Ultimately the whole phenomenon can be explained in a single word: Methamphetamine.

bdog
Guest
bdog

They can use cheap bikes to get around, right? Also, if you’re stealing to buy drugs, even a few dollars will get you a fix (or a hamburger).

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Clearly, the root of this guy’s problems are his drug addictions. I would argue this is also at root of most of the bike theft networks operating in central city. My rides takes me through quite a number of houseless camps in Portland, and you can see the bike chop shops go hand in hand with the addict behavior. At the camps where I don’t see piles of bikes, I also don’t see completely strung out and super high folks hanging around. When you ride through these camps on a regular basis, you get a feel for this distinction. Stealing bikes is probably not lucrative enough to get a hard working person out of houseless condition, but it is enough to feed their daily drug addictions and allow their homeless state to perpetuate.

Police need to be more aggressive to break up bike chop shops in homeless camps – it’s definitely whack-a-mole, but it always surprises me to see them become fairly entrenched in one location for weeks on end. This past year has been better than previous few, so I am seeing progress, although I am not sure if they are just finding new locations that are not on my route.

Follow the Money
Guest
Follow the Money

Who did he sell the chopped bikes to?

harry_balzitch
Guest
harry_balzitch

theft is theft, it hurts the victim regardless of the social stature of the thief.
perhaps the police could take a peek on 13th and clay around the church if they want to catch a few more thief’s and drug dealers who use drugs to trade for stolen bikes. Notice all the sidewalk dwellers with super expensive bikes. Or stop by hamilton west which is home to both dealers and thiefs

Random
Guest
Random

It’s just terrible that mere property crime is taken so seriously.

After all, this is Portland – we’re better than that.

I stand with Soren – it simply doesn’t make sense to arrest anyone for anything until the evil capitalist system is overthrown.

Sam Peterson
Guest
Sam Peterson

Some questions to all those who seem excited that this man is in jail:

Will the problem of bike theft go away because of this?
How will his life improve by being in jail?
Will his personal mental health and/or addition issues be addressed while in jail?
Will he have skills and opportunities to pursue things other than being a bike thief when he gets out?
Will he be able to afford any sort of housing other a tent under a bridge?
How will the conditions that are fueling the homeless/houseless/lack of affordable housing crisis be reduced while he is incarcerated?

Maybe this guy is, in fact, just an a$$hole and a lost cause. But we shouldn’t rejoice in his punishment. His punishment solves very little, if anything at all. It’s like putting a band-aid on a deep festering wound.

soren
Guest
soren

the money spent on policing, prosecution, adjudication, and incarceration would fund an awful lot of free u-locks. and the locks would almost certainly have a much greater impact on bike theft than the policing…

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Maybe we can also pass out high-viz vests and helmets while we’re helping victims protect themselves.

Sam Peterson
Guest
Sam Peterson

I’m unclear on what your point is here. Nobody was talking about hi-viz or helmets.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Putting the onus on us to lock their bikes (rather than on thieves to not steal them) is the same as putting the onus on us to be seen or to protect their heads (rather than ask drivers to see and not hit us).

In fact it’s worse, because theft is an act of intention, whereas not seeing is unintentional.

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

oh…this is good.
in my best homer simpson voice: “your ideas are interesting to me, do you have a blog i might subscribe to?”

soren
Guest
soren

” to protect their heads”

a difference is that a bike lock does deter theft while the evidence of any benefit form helmets is weak.

for example the bike theft task force in portland urges people to use u-locks:

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/584150

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I realize that helmets provide protection in a relatively small number of crashes, but the injury they prevent is severe and debilitating (far worse than losing your bike). Nonetheless, I’m not complaining that the police are spending valuable time and money telling people to take steps to avoid the comparatively trivial crime of bike theft, rather than spending those resources telling thieves to stop stealing bikes.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Make sure to throw in a free wheel set, seat, brakes — really anything that can be unbolted — because when someone’s motivated, they’ll steal everything around the u-lock. Then the frame will sit there for weeks until someone cuts the u-lock.

bridger
Guest
bridger

This assumes that bikes are still mostly stolen from the street. I don’t have the numbers, but I talk to lots of people whose bikes are stolen from bike lockers, garages, back yard sheds, etc.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I don’t rejoice in his punishment, but I do rejoice at the idea that my bike is now less likely to be stolen, parted out, and left for dead.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Nah…I’m rejoicing. And I’d love nothing more than to see more of his kind locked away.

Sam Peterson
Guest
Sam Peterson

How much less likely? There are still way too many bike thieves in town. We (the royal ‘we’) have created a society in which way too many people thing the best way they can survive is the through theft, petty and not so petty. I believe the vast majority of theft is done often of desperation, not evil. Violent crimes are done evil people.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Parsons, and people like him, are not stealing to eat, they’re stealing to shoot up or to fill their pipe. It’s desperation, yes, but not because of “society”. It’s because of addiction. And while I understand addiction is a complex problem, I can’t fully remove agency from someone because they’re an addict.

I would much prefer to get this guy into treatment, (I know he probably won’t get that in jail), but addicts need to want to get clean for rehab to be effective.

Until he’s ready, the onus is on him not to victimize others. If he can’t manage that, then prison is probably the right place for him.

Sam Peterson
Guest
Sam Peterson

Not once in this conversation have I put the onus on individual theft victim. I was pointing out the societal issues that have created this guy and his asshole behavior. Jailing this guy for any amount of time, even for life, does not change those conditions.

soren
Guest
soren

the “punishment” is apparently more important than actually trying to help victims of bike theft. it’s like the failed drug war all over again.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Maybe the government can buy new bikes for theft victims?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You did not, but you did remove the onus from him to not steal. Why do you think his thievery is the fault of “society” (and therefore partially the fault of the victim)? Does he not have any culpability at all?

9watts
Subscriber

Sam is making a whole lot of sense in this rather lively conversation.

“Does he not have any culpability at all?”

It is unfortunate that you are so fond of retreating to these extreme positions no one advocated, Hello, Kitty.
Recognizing the weight of society’s failings on people who steal, fence, chop our bikes is hardly the same thing as holding them harmless. It is merely pointing out that the conditions that lead someone down this path are not evenly distributed across income classes or countries. And to focus as many are wont to on the individual who happens to be nabbed for filchinn bikes offers a highly incomplete picture and as such effectively obscures actual solutions, as Soren has been arguing here.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I have great sympathy for a person who steals bread for his family. Parsons was not such a person.

9watts
Subscriber

Did you read what I wrote?

Acting on your impulse to ‘put him away’ may feel good or satisfying or reasonable to you, but as we are seeing it does essentially nothing for society, for Parsons, for our bikes. It is just a reflexive gesture that bears hardly any relation to what we might agree is the larger set of problems of which Parsons is but a symptom.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I read what you wrote, but suspect you know nothing about his personal history so have no basis to assert “we made him what he is.”

This story is not about how society makes criminals, it’s about a bad guy who fully deserves jail getting it.

Criminality is a terribly complex subject, not one reducable to pat formulas.

9watts
Subscriber

“Criminality is a terribly complex subject, not one reducable to pat formulas.”

Oh, you mean like – “a bad guy who fully deserves jail getting it.”

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

The “easy to sell” aspect of stolen bikes is far more problematic and too often ovelooked. There are way too many “good” people willing to turn a blind eye when faced with a deal.

dwk
Guest
dwk

“Will the problem of bike theft go away because of this?”

uh, yes to a degree since this guy has probably stolen hundreds of bikes.

“How will his life improve by being in jail?”

Since they also found evidence of drug use, he just might clean up.

‘Will his personal mental health and/or addition issues be addressed while in jail?”

Possibly, will he get ANY help on the street?

“Will he have skills and opportunities to pursue things other than being a bike thief when he gets out?”

Since he appears to have bike mechanic skills now, maybe he will put them to use in a legal way if he gets clean.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Thanks PPB for keeping up on this issue.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

soren
the money spent on policing, prosecution, adjudication, and incarceration would fund an awful lot of free u-locks. and the locks would almost certainly have a much greater impact on bike theft than the policing…

I see the appeal of that idea, and no objection at face value.

I get perplexed, though, by a set of commenters here (Soren included but hardly alone; even Jonathan uses “careless” in this article) whose perspective includes blaming theft victims when that same general group’s point of view downplays promoters of high-viz, retro-reflective, helmets, etc. My point is NOT pushing for those things – I’m pretty neutral on them, I agree they’re often overhyped, and I think they’re generally a case-by-case decision. Sure, it’s wise to use appropriate visibility stuff (which could include black), to wear a helmet if there’s a valid risk (which there often is not), and to secure any valuable appropriately. But all of them represent a secondary responsibility of a victim relative to the primary responsibility of an aggressor.

So, why the blame on theft victims when that point-of-view generally places collision and injury blame on inadequate driver behavior?

(Not casting aspersions on anyone, not trying to lump anyone’s nuance into someone else’s dogma, definitely not suggesting not locking up! Just trying to figure out why the difference in assigning social responsibility. I assign blame for theft to the thief.)

soren
Guest
soren

“So, why the blame on theft victims”

where did i do this?

where did i do this?

i suggested that free u-locks might be a more effective use of funds.

and, ironically, jonathan maus’ favorite bike theft task force seems to agree:

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/584150

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

By telling victims they should lock their bikes, rather than putting responsibility on the bike thieves to stop stealing, you (and the police) are engaging in blatant victim blaming.

Look… everyone else has to put up with this same bullshit every single year when TriMet does their annual “be seen” campaign, so you can just deal with it now. Or maybe we can all agree to call off the “blame the victim” histrionics for the rest of 2018.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

C’mon, I’m not attacking you, I’m just trying to understand what seems to me like a difference in assigning blame (or “agency” as HK used, or primary responsibility, or even simply shifting societal costs to a more economically efficient defensive model) in the case of bike theft compared to the case of vehicles striking bikes. This idea (bike locks – +1!) compared to, say, Tri-Met passing out reflective gear.

Cool page about PPD and Abus locks; curious that they are teamed with Project 529, not https://bikeindex.org/.

emerson
Subscriber

Cpt. Obvus
That helps, thanks! I buy repair-grade parts at City and such too, and it’s hard to imagine going to a chop-camp instead (“No, I need this for a 28.6 mm seat tube, not 34.9. Don’t you have that?”), but I can wrap my head around hoarding, great expectations and failed plans. I do still wonder about the idea of crappy parts as alternate currency though.Recommended 1

I read all your back and forth comments so feel compelled to state this — you hit the nail on the head. Just because you have a hard time wrapping your mind around the economics of their industry, doesn’t mean it it doesn’t exist. There is hoarding, sure. And most people show tenedencies to organize even when it doesn’t matter (“my organizational system is little piles everywhere.”) But they’re obviously operating with some grain of rational thought. It just flys in the face of reason to believe otherwise.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Maybe one day I’ll get my stolen bike back.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

I saw a large active bicycle chop shop yesterday, just feet from the Eastside Esplanade and the Hawthorne Bridge, basically operating in broad daylight just feet from two of the most traveled bike routes in town.

It is located at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge, inside the sidewalk loop connecting the eastbound Hawthorne viaduct to the Esplanade path. There were visible piles of bike parts everywhere and obvious sounds of bicycle disassembly coming from under the large brown tarp covering several tents.

jeff
Guest
jeff

get ahold of Officer Sanders…

jeff
Guest
jeff

Not just chop shops, but Parsons has also been known to tackle people off of their bikes.

Eric H
Guest
Eric H

I thought we were all about “Death to Bike Thieves!”?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That is soooo 2017.

Joe
Guest
Joe

This person and the rest of society in general would benefit from prison reform that rehabilitates and refocuses first and second-time offenders, particularly with drug treatment. Throwing criminals in a den of harder criminals without any program except punishment isn’t likely to reform many people. Perhaps if this person was provided with a drug treatment program for the first couple offenses, we wouldn’t be here talking about this. It’s clear the current system isn’t working if someone goes straight to the bad activity immediately after being released.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Including myself, I doubt you are anyone else really has an idea of what programs are offered in prison. This is like saying, taxes are too high when you don’t even no the current rate. We all say, “if only” they had drug treatment in prison. I’ll look it up later…

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Drug treatment info in OR prison system:

https://www.oregon.gov/doc/OMR/PROGMS/pages/wfd_ad.aspx

Maybe our opioid epidemic is so severe that we can’t get ahead of it.

Pat Jewett
Guest

My bike was stolen from behind Dubs restaurant in St Johns on Saturday, Aug 18th. It was locked to a pole. Someone from the community suggested I check out the Eagles Flea Market on Sunday morning. I did that and was walking through the market when I did see my bike. The person who had it said two Mexican guys had sold it to him 20 minutes earlier for $200.00. I did get it back. I also gave him $25.00 with a promise to pay more if he gave me his name and address. I did get that.
Do other people find missing bikes at the Eagles Flea Market? I am asking because I want to talk to their steering committee about the flea market being an easy place to sell stolen goods for quick drug money.
Apparently the Eagles Flea Market has a reputation as in, “if something is stolen did you check the Eagles Flea Market?”

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Perhaps they can check out the homeless people in the white van with 25 bikes in various stages of disassembly over off 5th and Hancock. There are new bikes every day and often parts hanging from the trees.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

So for those who bemoan the PPB arresting “bike thieves”, what do you say about repeat offenders who are arrested for stealing bike(s) from a parking facility to only then return after jail time to steal more bike(s) from the same facility – thus caught on security tape a second time? [I am asking this question as a facility operator.]

9watts
Subscriber

Hello, Kitty
Putting the onus on us to lock their bikes (rather than on thieves to not steal them) is the same as putting the onus on us to be seen or to protect their heads (rather than ask drivers to see and not hit us).In fact it’s worse, because theft is an act of intention, whereas not seeing is unintentional.Recommended 22

Oh, you are a wily and provocative one, Hello, Kitty.
I don’t think equating thieves with inattentive drivers is warranted.
Many thieves, we tell ourselves, are strung out, desperate, have little to lose, etc., while the class of drivers-who-might-hit-me includes most everyone; but being of basically sound mind and perhaps spirit they can and should be held to a higher standard than distracted. By requiring high viz we as a society are encouraging the shifting of responsibility away from sloppy drivers onto vigilant cyclists. I see no reason to do this, no matter how pragmatic it may feel in the short run. It strikes me as the inverse of Vision Zero. Drivers can, should, must do better, and I don’t see any logic by which society has failed them, as a class, which might suggest shared responsibility.

While thievery is as you suggest intentional or voluntary, this observation hardly captures the social circumstances which produce crime. The more equal society which we seem incapable of desiring or producing would dramatically shrink bike theft—just look at crime statistics in other countries—but—and perhaps you would agree—achieving this greater equality is not something I expect those who are currently at the very bottom to bring about. That is not their responsibility; it is ours. Until such time as we have mustered the courage and compassion to make this happen I will use my U-lock and encourage everyone else to as well.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Wow. Drivers (especially bus drivers, for whom the Trimet ‘get lit’ campaign is designed) who have difficulty seeing people dressed in black at night is the evildoer, whereas the prolific and unrepentant bike theft mogul is simply a victim of circumstance. I just don’t see it that way.

9watts
Subscriber

I didn’t think you’d agree with me, but I appreciate the prompt to articulate a distinction I’ve never tried to put into words.