One year later: A look inside Portland’s Bike Theft Task Force - KPTV - FOX 12

One year later: A look inside Portland’s Bike Theft Task Force

Posted: Updated:
Officers Sanders and Bryant unloading stolen bikes into the police property room. Officers Sanders and Bryant unloading stolen bikes into the police property room.
Nearly 400 recovered bikes currently sit in the Portland Police Bureau's property room. Nearly 400 recovered bikes currently sit in the Portland Police Bureau's property room.
Officers talking with people at a known "chop shop" under an east-side overpass. Officers talking with people at a known "chop shop" under an east-side overpass.
Officers talking with people at a known 'chop shop" under an east-side overpass. Officers talking with people at a known 'chop shop" under an east-side overpass.
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

It’s been one year since the Portland Police Bureau’s Bike Theft Task Force was created to fight a growing problem affecting thousands of people in the city; and while the task force has had a lot of success, its work is never finished.

In 2014 alone, some 3,000 bicycles were reported stolen to Portland Police.  That breaks down to an average of just over 8 every single day.

“Those are just the reported thefts.  There are many, many that go un-reported,” said Officer David Bryant.

He and Officer Dave Sanders are the only dedicated officers in the BTTF.  Assigned to the Central Precinct, they spend roughly a quarter of their time focusing on issues relating to bike theft.

It’s a multi-million dollar problem they say is fueled by drug addiction.  Known criminals rip off bike after bike to make a quick buck, running in the same circles and targeting the same places.

“The same person who stole your bike last night is probably the same person who is breaking into your neighbor’s house today,” Officer Sanders said.

“Whenever you get the drugs and desperation, you also get assaults, people getting stabbed – which we’ve seen a fair amount of lately – sometimes guns are involved,” Officer Bryant added.  “So it just sort of feeds into street-level violence and crime and unfortunately it’s the citizens who wind up being the victims.”

They showed Fox 12 one of the known “chop shops” they regularly recover stolen property from, in an encampment under an east-side overpass.

There, we saw dozens of bikes out in the open.  But it’s the higher-value bikes hidden under tarps and in tents criminals don’t want them to see they worry about the most.

“Most of these guys are known criminals that hang out down here, they don’t want services, they don’t want help from the city, they want to be here,” Officer Sanders said.  “So we’ll try to come by and see bikes of interest, things of higher value, if it looks like they’re recently stolen and try to investigate those.”

Thanks to registration sites like www.bikeindex.org and www.project529.com, they often run into success.

For instance, someone interrupted a thief trying to steal a bike from the Oregon Convention Center in NE Portland.  The BTTF posted about it on Twitter and thanks to registration information, found its rightful owner within hours of the post.

“I was pretty excited, I didn’t expect it to be found at all,” Fritz Koenig told Fox 12, adding that the bike in question actually belongs to his wife.  “The fact it’s back, all the parts are on it, all the lights are on it, it’s awesome.”

It’s that kind of success story the BTTF always hopes for, but doesn’t always get.

Thursday, seven more stolen bikes that were recovered this week were unloaded into the Portland Police Bureau’s property room, joining nearly 400 others currently sitting there.

If the rightful owners aren’t found within 60 days, the bikes are donated to charity, sold or destroyed to prevent the storage space from overcrowding.

During the peak months for bicycle theft in the summertime, some 25 arrive there every single day.

There’s only enough space to keep about 500.

“I think if people were to just register their bikes, we’d take care of the bike theft problem in Portland,” Officer Sanders said.  “Bikes would still get stolen, but there wouldn’t be a market for it, there wouldn’t be a reason to steal it.”

The BTTF also has some “bait bikes” outfitted with GPS technology, and will be expanding that program this summer.

They have two big messages to Portland cyclists: register your bike and learn how to property lock it.

For more information, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/police/66825.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
FOX 12
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2017, KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation, Portland, OR . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.