Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

Police Bureau

Sworn to protect. Dedicated to serve.

Phone: 503-823-0000

Non-Emergency: 503-823-3333

1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

Bike Theft FAQ


What should I do when I find an abandoned bike in the city?

Many people contact police regarding abandoned bikes, whether found in their front yard, tossed in the bushes by a business or other locations. Likely, these are stolen bikes that have been abandoned for one reason or another.

If you see what appears to be an abandoned bike, contact police via the non-emergency line (503-823-3333) to request that the bike be taken to the property room as found property. [Note: you can be listed as the property owner and petition to take possession of it if no owner is located in the next 60 days.]

What happens next? The bike sits in the property room to await a match for an owner. Police can check police reports for any reported thefts. We also utilize and, which list bikes that are reported stolen. [Note: These are public registries that are accessible to the public, also.]

Here’s an example of how this has helped in reuniting bikes to owners:

I found my stolen bike listed for sale on Craigslist!! What can I do now?

Here are some suggestions, though ultimately, it will be up to the officer with whom you work:

  • Save a screenshot of the posting; capture any contact info from the posting.
  • Attempt to make contact with the seller (many use a dummy email account) and set up a meeting.
  • The BTTF also would like to be notified via email so police can track these:
  • Once a meeting is established, notify the Portland Police via the non-emergency line 503-823-3333. An hour in advance should provide a little lead time. A public place, such as a coffee shop, is a commonly chosen meeting location. The dispatcher will likely ask for your stolen bike police report number, so have that handy when you call.
  • When the BTTF assists with these, we ask the victim to be involved in the transaction so they can positively identify the bike as theirs. We often will ask the victim to wait until they see visual confirmation of the bike at the meeting location, and then notify us while we wait nearby.  We then will confirm the identity of the bike, negotiate the recovery and investigate the incident. 
  • Bring any additional documentation of your stolen bike, such as photos/ peculiarities about the bike, etc., especially if you don’t have the serial number.
  • Finally, never do anything you aren’t comfortable with or anything that could put your own public safety in jeopardy.

I found my stolen bike on eBay! Is there anything I can do?

  • Please notify the BTTF via email and include the eBay link.
  • Often, the seller is local, but if there is a geographical issue, it may be more challenging.  However, some sellers are still willing to negotiate to return the bike. In addition, it may already be an account that is under investigation and linked to a known seller.

I am buying a second-hand bike. Is there anything that I can do to ensure it’s not stolen?

Police are often asked this question and it is a good one because there are potential criminal implications for purchasing stolen property. The burden of proof is placed on you to do your homework before purchasing something from a private seller.

ORS 164.095 Theft by Receiving: A person commits theft by receiving if the person receives, retains, conceals or disposes of property of another knowing or having good reason to know that the property was the subject of theft.

Remember the following:

  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is! Please don’t try to justify it internally without making an attempt to ask more questions/make observations that might answer those suspicions. Buying a bike you think is likely stolen is inexcusable and perpetuates the theft cycle.
  • If it seems fishy, it probably is! Trust your intuition. Notify the police if you think someone is trying to sell you a stolen bike. Maybe we can help answer some questions.
  • -Do a quick 60-second search on and to ensure that it’s not listed there.

Good questions to ask are:

  • Where did you get the bike?
  • How long have you had it?
  • Can you tell me about any modifications you made to it?
  • Do you have any paperwork for the bike?
  • Can I have your name/phone number? (may be a good idea to ask to look at their ID for a match)


Ask yourself:

  • Are the answers consistent/quickly produced?
  • Is the person being purposefully vague about the details?
  • Does the bike seem out of place with the seller?
  • Does the size fit the seller’s build?
  • Are there locks still attached to the bike? (If yes, and the seller says he “doesn’t have the keys with him right now” =STOLEN!)
  • Is the frame dented? (Indicates that it was forced from the lock during a theft)
  • Does the seller even know what he has (make/model, etc)?


Bad question to ask the seller:

  • “Is it stolen?”

-Nobody would ever say “yes,” so this is a pointless question.

-If you find yourself about to ask that question, you are probably looking at a stolen bike.

Looking online can be a great place to start your search for that new bike. Police just ask that you use caution, given the volume of stolen goods being resold out there.

 What if I buy a stolen bike?

If you purchase a stolen bike online, you could be found liable both civilly and criminally. If a person buys a documented stolen bike, police have the authority to seize the stolen property and return it to the owner, without any compensation to the buyer.

The burden of proof is on purchasers to take necessary steps to ensure they are buying a legitimate bike from a legitimate source.

We know not everyone has the sales receipt, but t ask if they have it just in case or even a bill of sale. At the least, they should be able to tell you exactly where they bought it from, which many times can be verified.

Think about asking to see some identification from the person selling you the bike. This will document who you bought it from. Seems reasonable if you are buying a multi-hundred dollar purchase, doesn’t it? If you get a lot of push-back, this may be an indication that the circumstances are not what they might seem.

Below is the Oregon Revised Statute that addresses possessing stolen goods:

164.095 Theft by receiving.

(1) A person commits theft by receiving if the person receives, retains, conceals or disposes of property of another knowing or having good reason to know that the property was the subject of theft.

      (2) It is a defense to a charge of violating subsection (1) of this section if:

      The person makes a report in accordance with ORS 165.118 (3)(a).

      (3) “Receiving” means acquiring possession, control or title, or lending on the security of the

       property. [1971 c.743 §129; 2009 c.811 §9]

It is also good to note that selling a stolen bike is a felony.

***Please be cautious out there and limit your liability by asking a few questions.***


What does “Bike Registration” mean?   

The BTTF believes that bike registration is the weakest link in the fight against bike theft!

Bike Registration is a method to identify an owner for a bike based on its serial number.

Why is this so important?

The serial number on a bike is rendered useless unless it is assigned to an owner. A serial number is the most reliable method for proving ownership. It is the easiest way for police to identify a stolen bike and most reliable method for charging someone with theft. Aside from being physically removed from the bike (which we see on a very rare occurrence), this is a permanent number for identification.

Why aren’t more people registering their bikes?

Bike Registration is not compulsory, (such as the DMV requirement for vehicle VINS) but voluntary, which is why it is so hard to get people to follow through with this. Understandably, many people don’t register because they don’t really believe that their bikes will be stolen from their secure bike room, work, or local bike rack. Many just haven’t made the time to walk out to their garage and spend five minutes writing down their serial number. 

The lack of registration often produces a challenging loop:

Community members do not register their bikes. Bikes get stolen, but they don’t know their serial numbers on their bikes. Police come across stolen bikes during patrol, but unaware that they were just stolen last week. After searching records for serial numbers on file, nothing shows up, so they release the bike. Community members note that police must not care about bike theft and therefore say “why should I register/report my bike if police aren’t doing anything about it?” Police remain frustrated that they can’t pursue bike theft charges because they are unable to locate victims for bike theft.

So, we ask you to do your part and register your bikes. This is truly the only way we are going to be able to get a handle on bike theft! Please encourage your friends to register their bikes as well. J

How do I “register”?

 Simple. Easy. Free!

So, why wouldn’t you take the 3 minutes it takes to give your bike the best chances for survival?

Click here to register.

** NOTE: the city does not manage any bike registration database. You will be registering with our private partners Project 529 or Bike Index. Project 529 even has a user-friendly app that makes it even easier to register! **

What happens to my personal information once I register?

Police do not manage any of your personal information. We simply access your information through our public registry partners (Project 529 and Bike Index) to identify bike owners. This is a HUGELY successful model and has returned numerous bikes to owners! We believe these guys are the best in the nation at bike registration!

Where is the serial number on my bike?

Almost 100% of modern bikes have a serial number, and it is very easy to locate, usually in between the pedals on the underside of the bike frame. Generally, this is stamped into the metal on the frame, thus making it near permanent. For further info, Bike Index has some good tips.


Have a good question you’d like us to answer? Drop us a line!