BikePortland

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


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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