What to do when your Bike is stolen in Portland Oregon

Hello there fellow Portlander - I’m sorry your bike was stolen! Don’t despair though - many great people here are working to fight bike thefts in Portland - it's the home of one of the Bike Index founders after all - so you already have a head start on recovering your bike.

Right now, though, there are several things you need to do. I’ll walk you through each one here:

  1. File a police report
  2. Register with Bike Index
  3. Spread the word!
  4. Look for your bike 'in the wild'
  5. Watch for your bike being sold online

First: File a police report.

Yes, you should file a police report for your stolen bike - especially if your bike was taken in a robbery, a home or business break-in, or a smash-and-grab from a vehicle or a shop. So: call PPB - perhaps start with the non-emergency line if it has been a while since your theft - and follow their instructions. If you happen to have video surveillance of your theft, mention that too - and remember this because it'll come in handy later.

You'll probably wind up being told to report your bike theft with PPB's online reporting system - which is not great, but still OK. Most police departments don't have enough officers to deal with bike thefts in person unless they are part of a more serious crime (again, see above) - but report your stolen bike nonetheless, even if it is online only. Doing so will get you a police report number - which you will need in a moment.

Meanwhile, go ahead and skip to the next step – i.e., get it listed on Bike Index.

Next: Register with Bike Index!

Now you should register your stolen bike with Bike Index, so we can help spread the word! Listing your stolen bike with the Bike Index is free, fast, and it quickly gets your stolen bike information out to the bike shops, fellow cyclists, law enforcement, and other Bike Index partners who look for stolen bikes - even if that bike crosses state lines.

If your bike is already in the Bike Index, all you have to do is log in, click "edit" on that bike, and click "Report stolen."

If your bike is not already in the Bike Index, gather as much of this info before you start:

  • the serial number - If you don't have your bike's serial number, check your purchase documentation or call the shop where you bought it
  • a police report number - Hopefully you have this from the step #1
  • photos of your bike - If you don't have any photos, even a stock photo of a similar bike is OK
  • good descriptions - Include descriptions of any unique components, stickers, dents or details that help identify your bike
  • Get any video surveillance you can! - if there is video of your theft, try to get a copy. Post it to Youtube, and include that Youtube link in your listing. Don't forget: your neighbors/nearby businesses may have cameras that caught your theft, even if you don't have any cameras of your own. So ask around. Bike Index's Twitter feed for Portland posts a lot of these kinds of videos, so if you can get one, that's great,

Once you have as much of the above as you can get, simply click here, register, and log in to list your stolen bike(s). Once they are registered, they'll be auto-tweeted out via our Portland Twitter feed (see below) - and the bike's info will be available to all our area partners.

Spread the word!

Finding stolen bikes is a game of numbers - the more people you have looking out for your bike, the better. So: you're going to have to spread the word. Tell everybody you know about your stolen bike . If you're in an apartment building, post a flier. If someone stole your bike from a business, alert the building management. And of course, you'll want to hit all the popular online methods, because Craigslist isn't the only place thieves sell stolen bikes online anymore.

Twitter - If you're on Twitter, definitely post your Bike Index link, a photos of your bike, and tag @stolenbikereg and Portland's Bike Theft Task force officers at @ppbbiketheft

Facebook - Facebook is a good next step. Post your bike, mention all the specifics, link its BikeIndex listing, and maybe get it out to some of the local PDX stolen bike groups like 'PNW Lost/Stolen Bikes.' If it's a specialty bike, like a cargo bike, you may look for specialty bike groups like 'PDX Cargo Bike Gang'. Be sure to look around for more specific neighborhood groups, too, like "Stolen In St. Johns"

Instagram - Stolen bikes Instagram is a great resource - so if you're on Instagram, post your bike, mention the make, model, specific city you're in and then tag @bikeindex so we can regram it

Reddit - we see stolen bike posts on Reddit all the time, and there's a lot of eyeballs there, too. So - if you're a Redditor, /r/portland and /r/cyclepdx may be a good place to start.

Nextdoor - even though Nextdoor is a 'closed' system, so to speak, there's still a lot of local eyeballs there. So it's worth posting your stolen bike's BikeIndex listing to Nextdoor.

Look for your bike 'in the wild'

It doesn't hurt to just cruise around Portland and look for your bike 'in the wild.' Tons of PDX bike theft victims have spotted their bikes in the usual places, i.e. one of Portland's many open-air chop shops. There's always a fair amount in the industrial sectors downtown, along the east side of the Esplanade, and many along the Springwater corridor.

The locations of these change pretty frequently but hit up the local FB groups and ask around, and you'll get a list of known chop shops pretty quick. We've also seen thieves 'stash' bikes in public bike racks (so they can leave them there, locked, to sell later) so be sure to check out the bike racks you see while you're out and about.

Keep an eye out for it online

A huge, huge amount of stolen bikes are fenced online - but it's not just Craigslist you have to deal with anymore. Now, there's many different sites you will need to watch:

  • Offerup - a chronically terrible service full of stolen bikes. This is the first place you should go to look for your stolen bike - or stolen anything - for that matter.
  • Letgo - another app that is similar to Offerup - same idea
  • Facebook marketplace - not as popular with thieves yet, but growing

Make it a habit to check for your bike on these sites every day, for many weeks - even months, if you can. We've seen thieves steal bikes and stash them in storage for months to let them 'cool off' before listing them for sale online. So be ready to play the 'long game' if you're serious about hunting down your stolen bike.

If you do find your bike for sale on Craigslist, LetGo, or Offerup - get in touch with the police, and skip contacting the online site because none of these services are ever going to help you. Don't waste your time engaging with these sites unless you enjoy terrible, Kafka-esque discussions with unhelpful people who will do nothing but send you form letters and/or ignore you. Chasing your bike with your local police instead is the way to go.

You can always email contact@bikeindex.org if you need some tips for dealing with online sellers who may have your bike.

Some final notes: I’ve been working on the bike theft problem since the mid-90's - basically trying to connect bike theft victims with people most likely to recover stolen bikes — i.e., shops, other bikers, schools, police departments, etc. I’ve found that by giving everybody access to the data they need, this model works - you wouldn’t believe some of our recoveries! The more people know about BikeIndex, though, the better it works. So: I’d hugely appreciate a link, a retweet, or simply you letting a local bike shop know about bikeindex.org.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://bikeindex.org/news/what-to-do-when-your-bike-is-stolen-in-portland-oregon