Over 400 bicycles are currently languishing in the Portland Police Bureau’s property room waiting to be claimed, and this is the slow season. When the weather improves and more Portlanders start biking, Jacob Gittlen, Police Property Evidence Division, expects that number to significantly increase. If the owners of these bikes had reported the theft to the police, using a serial number or other identifier, we might see more empty racks in this warehouse. Be proactive and record your serial number now to improve the chances that you’ll be reunited with your bike if it’s lost or stolen.
"I can safely say that in the last five years, I have seen hundreds of bicycles that were probably stolen and weren’t reported", says Neighborhood Response Team Officer Robert Brown who serves the East Portland community. He described a drug investigation at an apartment unit where dozens of bicycles were found in various states of disrepair. Given the criminal history of the suspects and the number of bikes stored in a small space, he was certain that all of them were stolen. However, none of the serial numbers that he checked against a State and National law enforcement database were reported missing. Since he couldn’t prove the bikes were stolen, the suspects were not charged with a crime, nor could he return the bikes to their rightful owner.
When bicycles are transferred to the Portland Police property room or recovered by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Abandoned Bike Program, staff scour State and National databases, Craigslist and independent bike registries to find an owner. To make it easier for them to discover who a bike belongs to, the owner needs to know some important information about their property, mainly the serial number.
Officer Sanders of Central Precinct advises bike owners to collect the following information and keep it on file:
- Serial Number, which is typically located on the bottom bracket where the two pedal cranks meet
- Color, make and model
- Engraved markings on your bike such as your Driver’s License Number if there is no serial number. Drivers’ licenses are easily identifiable and researched by the police, especially if you include the state code i.e. OR for Oregon.
- Any peculiarities about your bike that make it unique such as custom pedals or taped handlebars.
Ideally if your bike is lost or stolen, you can readily access this information and report it to the police. You can choose to write it down, create a spreadsheet, or email the details along with a photo to yourself. Just be sure to store it in safe place at home or online.
Another great option is to record your bike serial number now at www.EndBikeTheft.org. This quick and simple action substantially increases the chances that you’ll recover your bike if it’s lost or stolen. You input your serial number along with the make and model of your bike and the automatic email generator on PBOT’s webpage will send these details to you for your records. Additionally, there are a number of independent registries such as Bikeindex.org or Project529.com that make it easy to proactively register your bike and send out alerts if it’s stolen. The police, pawn shops, and others may be able to access the data on the registries to check if a bike is stolen.
By taking these measures, you’ll have quick access to the serial number and can swiftly file a police report if your bike is lost or stolen. To report an incident in Portland, call the police non-emergency number at 503-823-3333 or file online at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/cor/
Danielle Booth, of PBOT’s Abandoned Bicycle Program, sums it up, "Often the bikes I impound are well maintained and I’m certain that someone in our city is missing their bike, but without a serial number, police report or web listing, I’m unable to connect the bike to owner". Take action today and make the connection possible so that you can get your bike back where it belongs.