When Portlander Bryan Hance cooked up a way to list stolen bikes as a college student in 2004, he could have never dreamed his tool would someday help take down a transnational theft ring.
But that’s exactly what Bike Index has done.
As co-founder of the site (which was founded in 2013 and became a nonprofit in 2017) Hance, 46, has dedicated much of his adult life to helping people recover stolen bikes. In February of last year an email from a tipster about a suspicious store on Facebook Marketplace led to a 10 month investigation by Hance with his Bike Index staff and volunteer partners. They helped connect the dots between dozens of thefts in the Denver, Colorado area and a seller based in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (just south of El Paso, Texas).
In December Bike Index published their findings. The investigation overlapped with the arrest of eight men by the Colorado Attorney General who were involved with driving stolen bikes across the border. The ties have not been confirmed publicly, but as you can hear in our conversation, Hance has the receipts that tie bikes he has tracked directly to the Colorado AG case.
It’s a fascinating tale and in many ways it’s a perfect example of how all the expertise, data, and informational resources Hance and Bike Index have amassed over the years can be put into use.
You’ll hear all the sordid details about the Mexico case directly from Hance in our interview. We also talk about how — despite mountains of evidence and multiple direct communications — Facebook have not done anything to remove the fraudulent seller from their platform. Hance and I also talk about how he got involved in this type of work, the state of bike theft in Portland, and more.
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