In a bid to make crime reporting more convenient and free up officers for other calls, the Portland Police Bureau announced this week they’ve expanded the types of crimes that can be reported online.
Along with identity theft, telephone scams, shoplifting, and other crimes, you can now use the PPB’s Citizen Online Reporting System to report a bicycle theft. The new system can be used if the value of your bicycle is below $10,000 and there are no known suspects.
Officer Dave Sanders, founder of the PPB Bike Theft Task Force, says it’s a welcome step forward. “Hopefully this will encourage more folks to report their stolen bikes,” he shared with me earlier this week. Ofcr. Sanders added that he references police reports daily in his ongoing battle against Portland’s rampant bike theft problem (they’ve already recovered over 50 bikes so far this year). “We just got a bike back for a guy this morning in spite of an absent serial number,” he shared.
The new system allows bike theft victims to include specific identifying details about their bike. Sanders says using a registration system like Bike Index or Project 529 is still crucial because it makes recovery much more likely.
Bryan Hance of Bike Index said he too is happy to hear the news. “I’m all for anything that makes it easier for people to get their stolen bike info in the police databases,” he said when I asked him about the change. “We still get a lot of people registering in Bike Index who skip the police reporting because they think it’s pointless or that it takes too much time, and this always causes problems where we’re trying to get action on a suspect bike. So better online reporting is always a plus.”
When I clicked through PPB reporting site I was confused when I got to the prompt: “Are you reporting a stolen vehicle?” I obviously clicked “Yes” and was led to a window that said, “This incident can not be reported online.” It soon dawned on me that the PPB doesn’t consider bicycles vehicles and automobile theft is handled differently than bicycle theft.
On the Crime Type page I scrolled down to the 11th box labeled “Theft” and then I was able to start my report. I found bicycle theft near the bottom of the page in the “Theft other” category and was taken through the report process (which I aborted because filing a false report is a crime).
This is a nice new service and makes it easier to get a police report for a bike theft. If you’ve had your bike stolen, please create a report. This data is important so we have an accurate picture of the problem and it gives officers another tool to find your bike and bring the thief to justice. If for some reason you can’t access the web, you can still call the non-emergency line at (503) 823-3333 and an officer will respond in person. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 business days to get a copy of your report if it’s taken by an officer in person; but with online reporting you will be emailed a copy in about two business days.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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I had a bike stolen in 2011 and reported it online. Did they remove the ability to do that at some point?
Was there a specific category for bikes at the time, or were you just stubborn and reported it under the catch-all “other”? While it’s still just “other,” at least it now has its own 3rd-level subcategory.
Being stubborn and reporting it anyway does sound something I would do, but I found the incident report in my email and it was definitely specifically for bikes. The “incident type” is listed as “Theft of Bicycles(s)” and the form had fields for Brand, Model, Serial Number, Color, Description, etc.
I also reported a stolen bike online about 15 months ago. I don’t remember the details of how I reported it, but I did get an emailed receipt. What I didn’t get is the bike back.
Great! Now they need to make it easier for those who locate stolen bikes. I found one and was 100% sure of it, called the police and they told me I’d have to wait about at least an hour for an officer to show up. Did I mention, it was cold 40 degree-ish, dark with no street lights by the bike, I was on a bike, female, and in the industrial SE. Under no conditions, and especially by stolen property, would I hang around for an hour. I understand that there are sometimes more urgent matters for police to handle but there has to be a better way. Yes, the bike did get back to its owner but geez.
While this is an obvious great step forward, would it be that hard to list bicycles as it’s own category in an earlier screen? PPB states there are 3000-ish bikes reported stolen in Portland each year; about 8-10 a day. Surely that’s enough for it’s own category like Motor vehicles which probably have a similar theft/reportage ratio.
Is that data also uploaded to the RAPID regional pawnshop database to check for stolen items?
Local retail storefront businesses are somewhat out of the loop in dealing with bike theives, because they are required to hold bikes until they clear the police stolen bike database. Anyone handling bikes that are hot, or even kinda warm, will avoid retail shops as a nuisance at best (from the seller’s POV). Stolen bikes get sold through informal channels and the internet, or parted out and the frames thrown away.
How much of a price premium would it take to unify serial numbers of major components on a bike? Threre’s probably a way to imprint parts before assembly. A brand that could make the parts on its bikes trackable would make them worth less to thieves. This would complicate aftermarket customization of bikes but the amount of data required seems at least theoretically doable compared to what point of sale inventory systems can do.
Police emphasis on bike registration through private websites is an attempt to give good customer service. I’ve been cynical about police response to bike theft but as the potential for clearing a suspected bike theft goes up their interest in responding to bike theft calls will increase. Hate bike thieves? Register your bikes. Until that gets done, bikes are money blowing in the wind.