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Video of thieves in ‘secure’ bike room highlights larger problem

Posted by on October 24th, 2019 at 3:32 pm

It’s gut-wrenching to watch. Full video below.

The Ankeny Street Apartments at SE 27th and Ankeny are very welcoming to people who use bicycles. The building’s logo is a person riding one, there’s a brewery across the street with a long row of bike racks, and it’s located on one of the most popular bicycle boulevards in Portland.

Unfortunately the abundance of nice bikes owned by tenants also make it a popular attraction for thieves.

On October 10th Anchor NW Property Group, the company that owns this building and 22 others across Portland, notified police about a theft from their bike room. They then turned over a video of the incident to the Portland Police Bureau.

“This is one of the most coordinated bike storage room jobs I’ve seen in a long time,” said PPB Bike Theft Task Force Officer David Sanders. “If it doesn’t shock people, it should!”

In the video, three men force their way through the locked door and into the room. Dozens of bicycles hang on racks, and the men clearly know what they’re looking for. You can see them peer closely at drivetrains and frames as if they’re looking for specific brands and components. Once they decided which bikes to steal, the power tools came out and they began to cut away locks and racks to free them. One of them even had a cordless angle grinder (you can see sparks flying in the video). It was just before 4:00 am in the morning, so tenants would have been sound asleep.

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After spending nearly three-and-a-half minutes in the bike room, the thieves made off with at least five bikes that PPB estimates to be worth about $10,000.

“It seems like every time we take a step to improve security, the criminals take another step.”
— Jim Rostel, Anchor NW Property Group

Jim Rostel, sales manager for Anchor NW, says the thefts are very frustrating. “We have very little to no [auto] parking, so the bike community, those are the people we love,” he said in a phone call today. “It seems like every time we take a step to improve security, the criminals take another step. We attached all bike racks to the wall, now they’re coming in and cutting them off.”

Rostel said thieves hit another one of their buildings recently by cutting a hole through their garage door, swiping several bikes in a parking garage, and then leaving right out the front door. In another incident, a thief driving an SUV followed a tenant into a parking garage, grabbed two unlocked bikes, threw them into the back and drove off.

As for this most recent case, Rostel says he plans to make more security upgrades. He estimates the building owners will spend about $60-70,000 in the next few months to deter bike thieves. Stronger doors, more cameras, and security software upgrades are in the future.

Officer Sanders said bike room thefts are on the rise: “We are seeing like many thefts coming from these ‘secure’ areas. It’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.” The key to securing bikes in bike rooms is the same as if they were parked outside: use a high-quality U-lock ($50 or more) every time. Even with angle grinders, he said, a thief can only cut one or two high-end u-locks before the blade dulls. “We aren’t kidding when we say there’s a strong chance their bike will get stolen if they don’t secure it well. If someone’s bike is properly locked to a good bike rack, that will dissuade 90% of the thieves out there.”

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Sanders said because bike rooms are out-of-sight from passersby (unlike street parking), it’s even more important to lock your bike effectively.

Rostel said their move-in packet includes information on bike theft and u-locks and he plans to email all building tenants to make sure their bikes are registered on Bike Index and/or Project 529 (which greatly increases the chance of getting stolen bikes back). It’s in Anchor NW’s financial interest to keep tenants’ property safe. Rostel said if people don’t feel their bikes are secure, they might not renew their rental contract. That leaves Anchor NW with $6-800 in expenses to turn the unit over to someone else. “Over time,” Rostel said, “That adds up.”

Rostel seemed somewhat resigned to the uptick in bike theft, seeing it as a fact of life in Portland these days. “Unless we can slow down the demand, you just have to deal with this kind of thing,” he said.

He hopes someone can identify the thieves who hit Ankeny Street a few weeks ago. Police are still looking for the suspects. Please contact 503-823-3333 if you have any information.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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60 thoughts on “Video of thieves in ‘secure’ bike room highlights larger problem”

  1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

    “We attached all bike racks to the wall, now they’re coming in and cutting them off.”

    Actually, they just unscrewed them. The racks may have looked secure, but they weren’t. That said, it didn’t take them much longer to cut through a U-lock with the angle grinder, so maybe more secure racks wouldn’t have helped.

  2. Avatar Serenity says:

    Ugh! Sickening.

  3. Avatar mark smith says:

    I registered with Kryptonite and paid the money so that in the event someone cuts my lock, Kryptonite pays me. Just sayin…

    1. Avatar middle of the road guy says:

      There are a lot of stories out there about Krypto NOT paying up.

    2. Avatar mark says:

      Kryptonite makes it very hard to collect. You will need receipt from purchase of the bike, receipt from purchase of the lock, and you will need the broken lock. They will still try to weasel out of paying you.

      You’re much better off with renter’s or home owner’s insurance to cover your bike.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        Of the 3 bikes stolen on the video, it looks like they only cut the lock of one. The other two may have been locked with a Kryptonite lock, and the owners may have had all the paperwork, but the bike is gone and they will not collect.

      2. Avatar Shimran George says:

        ^This. I read the T&C of this Kryptonite guarantee and they basically ensure there is a slim-to-none chance that they’ll ever have to pay up. Also it’s a silly gimmick because if they made it easy to collect, I”m sure this program would be ripe with fraud.

        I do think we need to figure out a way to address this issue (like a portable, long lasting, inconspicuous tracker, component registration (not just frame) ). I think theft can really deter people from biking, as I know part of my enjoyment of cycling is making my bike my own–and putting the love (read $$) into it, only see it get stolen is highly discouraging. Oftentimes, even if you get your bike back, your accessories are long gone. And the poorer you are, the more losing your mode of transport stings.

        It bothers me that we’ve made such progress in reducing auto-theft (most modern cars are very difficult to steal), but with bikes, were still SOL.

  4. Avatar Glennf says:

    Looks like a crappy main door lock…
    Nice bike hangers, but not designed for locking bikes to…they need a vertical cross bar and the lag bolts need to be welded to the bike hangers for starters….

    1. Avatar Editz says:

      Yes, that door is garbage. There should be no glass as well. Upgrade the camera system with mics that automatically flag a live human if the sound level goes over a certain threshold for X seconds (i.e. noisy grinders).

      1. Avatar SERider says:

        Flag a human to do what though? Call the Police? This whole job took only 3 minutes, no way the police will be there in that time frame.

        1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          The human will remotely lock the doors and release the sticky nets and sleeping gas to contain the situation until the police get there.

          1. Avatar Glenn II says:

            Thieves, from under netting: “NOOOOOooooooo o o o…. [zzzzzz]”

  5. Avatar EP says:

    Bike Parking needs to be more than just an afterthought in these buildings. Bikes need to be in a room that isn’t buried deep in a basement or parking garage. Thieves would likely be a little less brazen if the bike room was just off the lobby, and wasn’t as sealed off.

    1. Avatar d2 says:

      We need to let developers know that rather than a bike room add 10 square feet as a ‘mud room’ to every unit. Even if you don’t have bikes you have shoes, strollers, umbrellas or other sporting goods.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        It would be great if that room had a door to the hallway so you could deposit and retrieve your messy stuff without carrying it through the apartment.

        1. Avatar Serenity says:

          In my mind, I am picturing this mud room area narthex front door of the apartment.

          1. Avatar Serenity says:

            Oops, I just saw that typo. Should read “near the” front door.

            1. Avatar Jesse R says:

              Narthex: an antechamber, porch, or distinct area at the western entrance of some early Christian churches, separated off by a railing and used by catechumens, penitents, etc.

              So it sort of worked?

  6. Avatar joel domries says:

    ive never actually seen a secure bike room.

    typically the racks can be removed with a screw driver.

    one can actually pay for a security service to monitor the video feed. they do this at many downtown buildings.

    that being said- i would bring my bike to my apartment-. not to blame the victims here. its the fault of the guys in the video for sure. and its a huge hassle to bring the bikes up, and little room in the apartments.

    im always bummed when my bike gets stolen. hope they can gt them back- and perhaps a follow up will be which bikes.

    sucks always to have your bike stolen.

    1. Avatar Serenity says:

      So what was the *most* secure type of bike room you’ve seen?

      1. Avatar Champs says:

        Inside your own residence, where very few people have keys. Not in an unsupervised “cookie jar” of valuables.

  7. Avatar Toby Keith says:

    This is disgusting. I wish I could say I’m surprised but this is Portland. The bikes have more than likely already been broken down in one of our fine homeless camp chop shops.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Gratuitous slam on homeless folk. Totally uncalled for.

      1. Avatar Toby Keith says:

        I live one block away from a row of “urban campers” conveniently blocking a sidewalk with a mountain of disassembled bikes. And because of the attitudes of folks like you and Ted Wheeler, the police drive by without even giving them a second look.

        1. Avatar soren says:

          If you don’t like living where you live, you are free to move. Oneonta Alabama might be a better fit.

          PS: I’m mirroring the advice of “Toby Keith” gave to people struggling to afford rent due to Portland’s housing crisis.

      2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        I agree — we should not attribute responsibility to one member of a “group” for what another does. Guilt by association or by identity is simply wrong, whether it be homeless people or car drivers or whomever.

        1. Avatar middle of the road guy says:

          But it’s so much fun to stereotype SUV drivers with WA tags.

      3. Avatar middle of the road guy says:

        It’s common knowledge that the homeless are disproportionately composed of cycling enthusiasts and bicycle mechanics.

        1. Avatar Chris I says:

          I’m pretty sure they have the highest cycling modal share of any group.

          1. More than Starbucks baristas & Portland slackers?

            1. Avatar Huey Lewis says:

              I take it that it’s been a while since you were in town. The baristas and slackers have been mostly run out.

  8. Avatar kittens says:

    The homeless problem will be solved if we just let them steal more bikes.

  9. Avatar rachel b says:

    Portland: A Candyland for ‘petty’ criminals.

    1. Your Portland petty thieves are much smarter than ours in Greensboro NC. Yours carry tools, break into “secure” storage rooms, and work quickly and efficiently to remove high-end bicycles. Ours only steal unlocked bicycles. As long as it is shiny, they don’t care if it’s a Surly or a Next. Unfortunately, we have a lot of moronic owners who leave their bikes outside, unlocked, on their porch, in their yard, next to their building, in an open garage…

      1. Avatar rachel b says:

        Well, ours go for the unlocked bikes first. But they do ignore the Huffys. I had a friend who rode one of those around and didn’t even have to lock it up. 🙂 It would always be there when she came back!

      2. Avatar fozman says:

        If you are going the way of Portland, that problem will take care of itself. All of the unlocked bikes will get stolen as they were here. Now everything is (mostly) locked, but the thieves, as shown, are wiley and adaptable.

  10. Avatar 9watts says:

    We have lots and lots of problems, both in this town and elsewhere. I know as well as you do that *some* unhoused people steal bikes, and *some* housed people steal bikes. What I am objecting to is your blanket indictment of the one group as responsible for this situation.
    How would you feel about a rephrasing of your comment above:
    “This is disgusting. I wish I could say I’m surprised but this is Bikeportland. The reflexively mean categorical indictments targeting the poor have more than likely already been posted by one of our fine commenters-with-two-first-names.”.

    1. Avatar middle of the road guy says:

      Thank you for the unintentional humor.

    2. Avatar DaveB says:

      Should we run all of our comments past you for prior approval? Because you know better than everyone else, right?

      1. Avatar Serenity says:

        Al
        What does your comment add to this discussion exactly?

        The same could be said of many things on the internet.

  11. Avatar Mike Quigley says:

    The have-nots steal bikes because the haves buy them. Capitalism. Like the drug market. Those nasty Mexican drug cartels exist because America is an eager market.

    1. Avatar Al says:

      People using bikes as their primary mode of transportation are “the haves”? What does your comment add to this discussion exactly?

  12. Avatar Paolo says:

    These are not homeless people, too prepared and dressed too well.
    They are reselling these bikes.
    With a high resolution video they should be able to identify at list 2 of them.
    Also wearing gloves so they might be already in the system…

    1. Avatar Mike Quigley says:

      And, they’re not resold locally. Truckloads of bikes stolen in Seattle and Portland head for SF and LA almost on schedule where premium prices are paid. And, vice-versa.

    2. They were very professional and experienced. They knew exactly what they were looking for – not the best and rarest bikes, but the bikes most easy to sell.

    3. From what I saw in this video, as much as a good lock can help (they did avoid some of the Arbus locks), removing your high-end brand-name parts and replacing them generic Sunlight versions (or similar crap) might be a better deterrent from this type of bike theft.

  13. Avatar betty says:

    and people get so fussy whenever I demand that I sleep with my bikes, or take my bikes to my room when in a hotel! THS!

  14. Avatar Stephen Keller says:

    The fellow in the stocking cap looks a little like Joshua Dutcherson. I wonder if he is back in business in Portland?

    1. Avatar Eric H says:

      Yeah, he definitely looks familiar. I feel like I’ve seen him on a fairly regular basis, but just can’t put my finger on where.

  15. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

    They were: Look carefully at 1:55; you can see them unthreading the unscrewed rack from the lock.

  16. Avatar Gary Sansom says:

    WOW!! super messed up..howabout a way to lock that room, and trap them in there until the police arrive?

    1. Avatar X says:

      It was another era (my rent was $350.00/month) but I once called 911 to report that people were At That Moment “stealing bikes” from the building laundry room which was right under my bedroom. The operator sent me to a recording.

      Never ever say the word “bike” to 911. Say “burglary in progress, multiple subjects with power tools breaking down the door on the East side of 4321 NE Parkway Place, on the Blank Street side” or whatever. Make sure they hear the “in progress” part. Look for a suspect vehicle while you wait. Try not be seen because some of these folks will carry a grudge and keep robbing you for payback.

  17. Avatar bikeninja says:

    I live in a new apartment complex out in the West Side burbs that has a very nice bike room that requires getting past two doors locked with key cards. On purpose I got the apartment right next to the bike room and locked up each of my bikes with an Abus Alarm lock. That way if anyone tampers with it in any way the Alarm goes off and I can here it.

  18. Avatar Tye Aldana says:

    It’s brazen events like this that makes we want to accept facial recognition software, and other AI associated technology to identify illegal behavior. I’m already wishing there were traffic enforcement drones.

  19. Avatar Mark smith says:

    Just think if every resident had online access to the video feed? Instead of it being sent to some useless DVR. because clearly nobody from the complex was watching it at all. But hey, they had cameras. Better yet, make it available to anyone on the internet to watch.

    The only think that will change this brazen behavior is a real crackdown by police and by the da. Charging real felonies and using Rico if necessary. Nobody wants to to hard time for bikes. But yet…here we are.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Streaming it to the internet would be a great way for a stalker to monitor the comings and goings of their victim. Who else would watch such a feed?

      What deters crime is the certainty of punishment, not its severity.

      1. Avatar Serenity says:

        People who are paranoid about their bikes, and people who are paid to watch it.

      2. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

        Exactly that. Which is why people don’t generally do bad things in front of people. It’s getting caught and getting shamed.

      3. Avatar mark smith says:

        Oh my gosh. Although, I give you extra points for inventing what isn’t there.

    2. Avatar Serenity says:

      Mark, I like the idea of giving residents access to it.

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