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Thief picks handcuffs, steals bike owned by Portland Police Bike Theft Task Force leader


Officer Sanders’ bike. Keep your eyes peeled!

Portland’s bike theft problem has reached a new high. Yesterday while at the Multnomah County Courthouse, Portland Police Bureau Officer David Sanders had his bike stolen. Sanders is not just a PPB officer, he’s the leader of the Bike Theft Task Force, a unit launched in 2015 with the aim to curb bike theft citywide.

“If they’re willing to steal a police bike in front of a courthouse, what have we come to?”
— PPB Officer David Sanders

And yes, as you can see in the image above, his bike had a big “POLICE” patch clearly visible on its frame bag.

Officer David Sanders at a 2019 Sunday Parkways event.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Officer Sanders told me this morning he was in a grand jury for about an hour-and-a-half and his bike was locked to a rack in front of the courthouse on SW 4th Avenue. The theft, which was caught on video, happened at about 6:00 pm. “[In the video] You can see him walk by and check out the bike. Then he gets to the end of the block and pauses, like ‘Hey, I think I’ll do it!’ Then he turns around and goes for it. It’s just bizarre.”

“These thieves have become so brazen,” Sanders said. “If they’re willing to steal a police bike in front of a courthouse, what have we come to? It’s such a problem if somebody’s willing to do that.”

Unfortunately, Sanders didn’t heed the advice of using a u-lock that he’s given hundreds of people over the years. The bike was locked to the rack with a pair of handcuffs. “It was my bad. He just picked the lock on the handcuffs and left them there.”

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As you can see by checking the PPB BTTF Twitter feed, Sanders often puts himself on the front lines of this fight and knows all too well how pervasive the problem is. “Going out on a limb here, but this may support the argument that we still have a slight bike theft problem in the city,” he tweeted yesterday.

Adding to the irony of the case is that Sanders had just left a Bike Theft Task Force meeting where he and his team were formulating 2020 plans to make big progress on the issue (stay tuned for more on that).

Despite no dedicated funding, Sanders (who works out of an office in Old Town) has dedicated himself to battling the scourge of bike theft. He and the five members of the bike theft unit train others officers about how to identify and recover stolen bikes, they work with local bike shops, give away u-locks, and share bike theft prevention and recovery tips at events like Sunday Parkways.

According to PPB statistics there are about 2,300 bike theft cases with an estimated stolen property value of about $2.5 million each year. Sanders says only about 1 in 4 stolen bikes get reported and he believes the total loss of property is closer to $10 million a year.

Sanders also estimates that police recover about 1 out of every 10 stolen bikes. But your chances of getting yours back double to about 1 in 5 if you have it registered with a service like Bike Index or Project 529.

Sanders’ bike is registered and listed as stolen; but, given that the thief likely realizes he’s in possession of police property, he doesn’t expect to ever see it again. “It’s probably at the bottom of the Willamette already,” Sanders said, “But who knows, maybe I’ll find it stashed in the bushes.”

The bike, which was part of a city fleet, was a 2017 Marin Nail Trail with serial number 091712249.

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