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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Excellent story. Just added Bike Index to a spreadsheet of orgs to donate to (..when I’m earning steadily). Thanks, Bryan and JMaus!
BikeIndex helped me get a stolen bike back several years ago, and since then every new bike I buy (admittedly a nerd with too many bikes) gets registered there and a donation goes along with it. And it helps that Bryan is also just genuinely good people.
Any word on our long lost Bike Theft Task Force? I think bike index used to work with them in the past. Any hope for its revival or is that a pipe dream in “enforcement is inequitable” Portland?
The Task Force has pretty much been mothballed. And yes, Bryan was a key member of it. There’s definitely hope for its revival and its page is still up on the PPB’s website. The big reason it no longer exists is because the officer who led it now works for Beaverton PD. If another PPB officer stepped up and wanted to make it happen, they could breathe life into it. Here’s more from a story I did in January 2021
Thank you, Bryan, for all you do for bikes! First a plug, and then a request:
For all bike owners, tell your local police department, city, or school campus about BikeIndex. There’s even a page with all the info they need to get going, for example the police page is https://bikeindex.org/for_law_enforcement or the city page is https://bikeindex.org/cities_packages . Do your homework and try to get to the right set of ears.
I’ll drop an annual donation in the 501-C3 tip jar (thanks for the reminder, Jonathan) but Bryan, how about a monthly recurring donation? That’s my preferred way, I don’t know how it pans out for the organization, though.
First of all a) thank you hugely and b) either one honestly would help us hugely. Donors can always email me at bryan @ bikeindex org if you need a tax ID or want to set something recurring up or do corporate/employer matching etc.