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PPB Bike Theft Task Force recover 15 bikes, make two arrests in chop shop bust

Posted by on May 15th, 2020 at 10:24 am

Tools of the trade. Notice the seat bags too.

A vanful of broken dreams. (Photos: PPB)

The Portland Police Bureau’s Bike Theft Task Force continues to pay big dividends to our community.

In a statement just released a few minutes ago, the PPB says an officer on the task force responded to a burglary call on Wednesday and stumbled upon a large chop-shop operation. The bust happened in southeast Portland on the 6000 block of SE Powell Blvd (just east of the Foster split).

Here’s more from the PPB:

On May 13, 2020, a Portland Police Bureau Officer assigned to the Bike Theft Task Force (BTTF), responded to a burglary call where an expensive bicycle, along with a cell phone, were stolen from a residence. The investigating Officer conducted excellent follow-up; obtained suspect description, secured Ring video surveillance of the suspect, and learned the stolen cell phone last tracked to the 6500 block of Southeast Powell Boulevard.

On May 14, 2020, Bike Theft Task Force (BTTF) Officers went to the location of the cell phone to look for the stolen bicycle. Officers discovered a large bicycle “chop shop” (Photos) in and around a tent near the 6000 block of Southeast Powell Boulevard. Inside of the tent, Officers contacted 35-year-old Juan Garcia Cortes (Photo), who is known to them as a prolific burglar and bicycle thief. There was probable cause to arrest Garcia Cortes for several new counts of burglary for additional incidents where bicycles had been stolen. Garcia Cortes was arrested without incident.

Collectively, the officers on scene removed approximately 15 bikes/bike frames from the camp to include an expensive Cannondale road bicycle, valued at $4,000. This bicycle was reported stolen on May 6, 2020.

While working on the bicycle recoveries from this “chop shop”, an officer on scene recognized another person in the tent, 46-year-old Craig Stephens (Photo), who was with Garcia Cortes during one of the burglaries from surveillance of the original crime. Stephens was arrested without incident.

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Two of the stolen rigs. If registered, they have twice the likelihood of being returned to owners.

Bikes are parted out to make them untraceable.

The expensive Cannondale has been returned to its owner and the remaining bikes have been confiscated and officers will now attempt to find their owners. If they’re registered this should be a simple process.

Both Cortes and Stephens were arrested. Cortes faces 10 counts of Burglary 1 as well as Criminal Mischief I, Theft I, and a warrant. Stephens has 1 count of Burglary 1. Task Force leader Officer Dave Sanders says there might be further suspects and arrests in this case.

The Bike Theft Task Force was formed in 2015 to combat a problem that claims an estimated 10,000 victims and $10 million worth of stolen property in Portland each year. Learn more about how to register your bike and prevent it from getting stolen at the official BTTF website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Alex ReedinBrianPatrick BeesonMark GinsbergMiddle of the Road Guy Recent comment authors
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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

So is it safe to assume that many of the bikes in homeless camps are stolen?

J_R
Guest
J_R

Homeless camps that feature piles of bikes also tend to have shopping carts with labels like Safeway, Target, BiMart, JoAnn’s, etc. As a juror, I wouldn’t convict a person of bike theft on the basis of the presence of shopping carts, but that doesn’t stop me from concluding that the theft is a highly likely explanation for the piles of bikes.

Shimran George
Guest
Shimran George

I think Jonathan summed it up pretty well.

I just want to add that we do have an assumption of innocence in this country. And working on assumptions rather than evidence sets a precedence for mob justice.

I’m not advocating that anyone is above the law, but if you suspect a crime, it’s important to have evidence, and let the justice system at work.

If you have an issue with the justice system failing you…well we need to vote in better leaders.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Do you feel this way about #MeToo?

Shimran George
Guest
Shimran George

This seems like a case of whatabouism, and it also supposes I tow some progressive line–which by the way I don’t. I say what I think for the most part, and will agree or disagree based on what makes sense to me.

All I am saying is that certain assumptions are dangerous, and was specific to MotrG’s comment which I suspect even he knew was pushing buttons. Even if you were to take MotRG’s statement to be true: what are you going to do with it? Bike theft is a problem…let’s focus on bike theft and ensure victims get justice. I for one am glad that BTTF was able to retrieve bikes and hope for many more retrievals!

It’s this whole jumping to conclusions and basing ideas on emotion rather than fact(and to be honest we’re all guilty of this–even myself) is the reason this country is so screwed up in the first place. This applies to both sides of the line.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

“It’s this whole jumping to conclusions and basing ideas on emotion rather than fact”

yes – THIS.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I thought about the whataboutism issue before posting, and the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t seem that way. You laid out a set of principles (which I generally agree with), and it’s worth considering whether they apply broadly to similar patterns of fact, or are just specific to this one situation (which would make them arbitrary and thus uninteresting to me).

My query was not so much directed at you personally as hung on your comment to stimulate thought generally.

(And, I’ll note, I upvoted the comment I was replying to.)

Shimran George
Guest
Shimran George

I actually agreed with your initial reply to Jonathan and it was pretty nuanced/balanced so I was surprised at your reply to me. I think we agree more than we disagree.

With that said, to answer your question: Yes. I generally follow a set of principles that apply to similar patterns of fact, and have taken a lot of flack for the very situation you cited (from my own cousin no less!). I hate speaking in absolutes, so do know there may be some narrow exceptions.

Our justice system emphasizes that everyone gets the benefit of the doubt and we need evidence to establish guilt. Your personal opinions on someone’s guilt may differ, but everyone is entitled to due process. It bothers me that people are willing to throw out that fundamental crux of our justice system when the situation fits their narrative.

Bike Guy
Guest
Bike Guy

Thank you and good work PPB. May I be so bold as to ask why a ‘prolific burglar’ is on the streets at all? Isn’t burglary something that we, as a society, have decided to criminalize and punish with imprisonment?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Those photos provide interesting insight into the local bike remixer culture. For example, my local shop uses a much smaller axe and crowbar to adjust derailleurs and brakes. I wonder if the larger size is required when adding a wheel from a Biketown bike to a Cannondale Synapse, or if it’s simply a cultural preference with origins lost in the sands of time.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I myself am impressed with the large two-handed spoke-truing keys. I see that my local Home Depot carries them.

Hotrodder
Guest
Hotrodder

I see a couple of Ottolock keys in that pile of tools.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Where did you see the nail clippers?

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

The axe and crowbar are to fight off bike thieves.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

If registered, they have twice the likelihood of being returned to owners.

I would have guessed ten times or more. Why so low? (just curious)

Thanks, BTTF!

Patrick Beeson
Guest
Patrick Beeson

I live in the Foster-Powell neighborhood, and have witnessed and reported this operation several times over the past few weeks. It’s stunning how brazing these thieves are given the location is next to a heavily travelled road.

Why did it take so long for the police to investigate or take action? Are departments not communicating with one-another?

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

“Stumbled”

Read: A wealthy person had something get jacked so the police bothered to show up and solve the crime.

hurrrr
Guest
hurrrr

Exactly. That tent and the mountain of bike frames next to it has been in the same spot for more than a month. Weird how the police couldn’t get around to checking it out until just now.

mason
Guest
mason

Month? they’ve been there almost a year now and its the same group who’s been on Powell Blvd for yearly two years. I even wrote Jonathan Maus about them about 6 or 8 months ago and he never responded.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Has anyone else seen the potential operation happening right now on the 205 bike path just north of Division? It is up the hill and across the path from the Max stop.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Did the police actually know it was there before now? Did they have a victim willing to say, “yeah, that’s my bike” to provide the necessary probable cause for arrest?

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

When my car got stolen the police had multiple clear pictures of the jerk. Guess who got away with it…

Some animals are more equal than others.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Did you have a location tracking device in your car so the police knew where to look for said jerk? There are a lot of people in this town.

Bryan Hance (The Bike Index)
Subscriber

… and here I am to ask you all to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go register your bikes in bikeindex.org to help prevent this and to catch more of these guys. It is fast, free, and it works.

bArbaroo
Guest
bArbaroo

YES! Bike index works!Please register your bikes AND make sure to take a photo of your bike – no stock photo – and list serial # so it’s easy to recognize your bike if it is stolen.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

How does someone who operates a chop shop in a tent sell the “parts”. Bikes are only stolen because the parts once removed have some kind of economic value, but how are they fenced? The pawn shop laws have done a lot to cut down on bikes being stolen and resold whole. But how does the high volume of “chopped” parts move after they leave the chop shops? Cutting off this link in the chain may be a good way to reduce the scourge of bike theft.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Craigslist, for one.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Also word of mouth. There are several different bicycle communities out there, always has been, including people who collect 5-finger parts.

Bryan Hance (The Bike Index)
Subscriber

Mostly facebook marketplace, offerup, letgo, and a couple bajillion other ‘local sales’ knock-offs apps.

bArbaroo
Guest
bArbaroo

Usually, parts are moved onto other bikes. Frames are stripped and parts randomly but on other stripped frames. I’ve seen chopped bikes with lots of odd parts, including two different wheel sizes. Then, the bikes are sold or traded.

Mark Ginsberg
Guest
Mark Ginsberg

Swapped to other bikes, so held until needed. For example Ahead headsets make it easier to swap forks. They don’t swap the headset races, but just jam a fork onto a bike and for the most part, they work well enough. A few years ago I bought a long tail that was clearly stolen, used bike index to get it back to its owner. It turned out it had been franken-biked with the wheels and parts from a different bike, but the original frame.

Jaymomomo
Subscriber

This may be a silly question, but what is the actual market for the parts from stolen bikes? I can’t imagine buying random parts from someone, and even if I could it would seem pretty obvious that they were stolen.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

In smaller towns and other parts of the country where there are virtually no bike shops and no choices except the local hardware store or Walmart, especially after the demise of Performance, it’s pretty easy to sell these parts for a profit through the local Criaglist. Over the years I’ve met what you might call scrap dealers who visit places like Portland or Seattle, usually in a large truck pulling a trailer, buy parts at a discount knowing full well they are likely stolen, then selling the parts (and frames) in a completely different part of the country, seemingly legitimately. They do the same thing for riding lawnmowers, snow mobiles, motorcycles, mopeds, cell phones, etc, anything that is small and high-value.

mnamna
Guest
mnamna

Let’s wring our hands some more. This is great for the 15 bikes. And hardly a success worth celebrating. The city tolerates this perpetual cycle of “petty” crimes, with full-on self-sustaining micro-communities built up around them, with no urgency to end it or change it. Portland’s cherry popped a long time ago.

JeffP
Guest
JeffP

” The city tolerates …
“The CITIZENRY tolerates…” – fixed that for you.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Everyone is just so worried about hurting feelings here in Portland to get real about the cycle of dependency and enabling.

dwk
Guest
dwk

I am so over this whole problem… A long time liberal and I cannot take it much more.
Old town is one big tent/chop shop right now. The city just gave away that part of downtown for the pandemic. This goes on and on, voting for Mayor is so depressing…

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

dwk, clarify: “This goes on and on, voting for Mayor is so depressing…” are you complaining about Mayor Wheeler or the whole “crop” of candidates for mayor?

dwk
Guest
dwk

The whole crop. Not one on them is addressing this. I am not a nasty person about the houseless, I help out a guy out who is an of the meds bi polar living on the street,
He does not live to steal. There are many issues but there are obviously a whole lot who do
live to steal off society and each other.
They have just taken over. It is getting worse all the time.
Shouldn’t someone running for Mayor have a plan?
The hew bond measure is trying to raise money with No plan.
Nothing about this issue is really being addressed beside whack a mole and they have given up on that?

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

All these mayoral candidates can do is pander to the guilt of elites who can afford to ignore or remove themselves though self-styled economic enclaves… lest they become a target of the self-righteous PC lynch mob. There I said it!

I fear when the answer to this crisis does come, it will not be from “my” side of the political spectrum and it will not be pretty.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

Progressives and Evangelicals seem to have some similar behavior traits. Both possess more profound knowledge than others, have a duty to spread it, and also have strict in-group litmus tests that creates a dynamic for virtue signalling their piousness/devotion to the cause.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

You sound more like a classic liberal than a progressive.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Wow, how BIG was “the tent”?…2 humans plus all this gear?!

[Sounds like the tent in question was large enough to require a city building permit, a fire inspection and an OSHA poster for employees tacked up in the adjoining smaller tent employee break room.]

mason
Guest
mason

It was actually 2 or 3 tents and there are still 6 or 8 more in the area with more stolen bikes as I type this…

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Looking over the photos, I was hoping to “learn” what locks that the accused “bike thieves” used to secure “their” property when stored…but only seeing two u-locks in the photos. They musta had good “on-site security” or a dog or two.

Again this is why the City must up its game [to become a true bike friendly platinum city] and have a public ‘Bikestation’ or similar on every major block in the city center…sadly the days of u-locks and on-street staples are over in Portland given the arsenal on tools to defeat the lock on any bike worth more than $300.

alex
Guest
alex

I think that a pile of bikes that are all being parted out should be probable cause in any location.

mason
Guest
mason

I’ve been trying to tell anyone who will listen in the city about these guys for months! They have been absolutely destroying the Foster-Powell community with property theft. I think 3 individuals rolled down there just last week to get their bikes back…so nice to see them arrested after about a year of camping and stealing in that location with impunity.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

You are not alone friend. A long time Parkrose resident who pays into the coffers but does not feel remotely like a resident of the “City of Roses”.

Patrick Beeson
Guest
Patrick Beeson

They’re still there btw…