BIKE THEFT - Q & A (from a bike cop's perspective)

We aren’t able to interact at community events yet, but would still love to engage around the topic of Bike Theft! If you have any questions you’d like to discuss, drop one in here and I’d be happy to give my two cents. Happy riding!


Quick facts: bike theft is up 20%+ in recent months. Most thefts are occurring from indoor locations/ secure bike rooms. Please lock your bikes as well INDOORS as you do outdoors.

Do you mean that most thefts overall are occurring in indoor locations? Or just that the recent increase is due to indoor thefts?

I lock up fastidiously any time I’m out and about, but my bike is loose in my garage (attached to single family home) at home. Do you have recommendations for properly securing bikes in this scenario?

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Overall, total number of stolen bikes for the year has gone up 20% as compared to last year. But we have seen secure areas targeted more than ever before. The majority of all bikes stolen are being taken from those areas, and unfortunately garages are often mentioned in reports that I read.

Lots of folks accidentally leave their car unlocked in the driveway and the thief uses the garage door opener in it. Others forget to close the garage door over night… But often there’s no place to secure the bike like you mentioned. What I do at home personally with the bikes in my garage is toss a U-lock on the frame/rear wheel. My hope is this will limit the thief’s mobility if they consider stealing it. Most thieves are looking for a quick get-away vehicle along with whatever else they are stealing, and most likely won’t risk toting the bike around town if it’s locked like this.

Here’s another option that you might consider that I saw recently:


How are bike thieves make a get away. Do they come prepared with a van or just ride the bike away? Do they ghost ride the stolen bike? How do they get to the crime scene?

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That’s a really nice option, if you have the wall space for it. I don’t.

All of the above, but most of them walk in and ride away on the newly acquired bike. We rarely see those that are mobile with a vehicle. Usually these aren’t the most sophisticated thieves.

I’m curious about stolen bikes getting returned to their owners. Any idea of the ratio of registered versus non-registered bikes that get returned?

In addition to registering before it’s stolen, do you have suggestions for getting a bike back after it disappears?

Ob:RegisterYourBike! |

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This is what I do in my garage. Many bikes, and a U-lock on each one. I don’t want to make it easy for a thief to ride away.

Ideally I want to put some anchors on the garage floor to lock the nicer bikes to, as an extra level of deterrent.

Also, we unplug our garage door opener when we aren’t using it, which is 99% of the time.

I’m curious about the stats for lock type, how often a U-lock is cut vs a cable.

Thanks for offering your experience and advice here. That is very much appreciated.
I’m curious about statistics on the % of bikes stolen that were locked to a stationary object with a U-lock? Reading between the lines of what you have said above—and what I think we might generally agree is best practice—using a reputable U-lock and in a prescribed manner reduces the probability of it getting stolen significantly. Am I wrong?
When I have suggested as much on bikeportland I tend to get crucified.

Good question. Statistically, if a bike is not registered, there is a 10%- chance that it will get recovered in Portland. If a bike is registered, there is a 20%+ (some stats show it’s closer to 25%) chance it will get recovered. So, basically doubles your chances at a minimum.

Suggestions post theft? Bikes typically show up on the street for a few days, to a week after they are stolen. We intercept a good amount just being ridden around. The thieves try to sell them ASAP and it moves up the chain where eventually it is circulated back into the community, usually through 1. OfferUp, 2. Craigslist, 3. LetGo. I would recommend checking those sites for up to a month after it’s stolen. We have more guidelines on our BTTF website regarding that if you do spot it online.


Many bikes that are stolen are not locked at all. (backyards, balconies, storage rooms, garages, etc.) If they are locked, about 80% of those that are taken use cable locks. (hence our strict “never use a cable lock” message you probably have heard from us)

Quality (emphasis on quality) U-locks being defeated is an anomaly and rarely happens. We do recover a good amount of bikes with U-locks attached to the frame, which shows that the bike was locked to something less secure that was defeated instead of the lock.

I had a e-bike stolen from my garage last week. U-lock attached, but not secured to immoveable object. Reported it to police, and my bike shop. Two days later bike shop reported that someone was looking for a charger for my specific bike–brand and model; he left a name and number at the shop, and it was provided me which I in turn added to the police report. What kind of follow up should I expect.

As an aside, I’ve had contact via text with him. First, asked him if he found a charger–he did. A few days later I texted him to ask if he was looking for a key and said I had access to many, but not all, of the keys of my model. He was interested. I’m sure this is the guy and provided his phone number.

Sounds like a good lead! Would you mind sending me that case number so our unit can follow up on it? Our investigative units are buried in cases right now and want to make sure that is followed up on.

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No, you are absolutely correct. That’s the proven formula. We suggest buying a lock that costs $50 or more and locking the bike properly to a bike rack that is stronger than the U-lock. That’s the best recommendation we can suggest as a minimum.

Not sure why someone would have a problem with this… but hope that even the skeptic follows this recommendation.

We know that’s a lot to spend on a lock for many, but we offer an ‘earn-a-lock’ program that allows anyone to get a free ulock by helping with bike registration in the community.

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When bikes are secured and stolen, how is the security typically overcome? Is it almost entirely bolt cutters (in which case a quality chain like my Kryptonite New York would more than suffice)? Hacksaws (probably to attack the staple)? Are there thieves running around with angle grinders and similar power tools?
How often do you get reports of a locked bike being stripped of parts with the secured frame left behind? I always grab my quick-clip removable stuff, but should I be worried about quick-disconnect wheels and stuff screwed onto the bike?
Is vandalism much of a problem for privately-owned bikes? Are bikes either stolen or left alone, or is there a risk of damage just, I guess, for the sake of destruction?
(And thanks for offering your perspective!)