Problematic Behavior or Activity
In 2015, the Bend Police Department (BPD) received more than 360 reports of bicycle theft. This accounted for more than 400 bicycles stolen inside city limits and represented a 49 percent increase in reports from 2014.
Bend is a bike destination, bringing biking events and enthusiasts from across the country. Technology and advances in the bicycle industry have increased the cost of bikes, making their theft a lucrative industry.
The BPD responded to these finding by doing the following:
- Forming the Central Oregon Bike Theft Task force, comprising representatives from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office and police departments from Redmond, Sunriver, and Prineville;
- Developing a bike theft “hot sheet” shared weekly with task force representatives to share with patrol officers for quick identification of outstanding bikes countywide.;
- Adopting proactive enforcement and investigative efforts from patrol officers in the field to identify serial bike thieves and locate stolen bikes;
- Forming the Bend Bike Theft Committee, with representatives from the BPD, Pine Mountain Sports, Commute Options, Visit Bend, Bendbikes.org, and BikeIndex.org;
- Partnering with BikeIndex for fast, free, and easy online bike registration at the BPD and at points of sale;
- Partnering with the community-based Bend Bike Theft Committee to generate awareness among local bike shop owners through the first Bend Bike Theft Summit;
- Implementing “bait bike” sting operations structured around crime analysis; and
- Increasing community awareness of how, when, and where bike thefts are likely to occur. based on local crime analysis.
Based On Research
Few systemic evaluations exist looking specifically at bicycle theft. However, research indicates that bicycle theft is underreported and that victims of bicycle theft do not report because they believe the police will not recover the stolen bicycle or catch the offender. Clearance rates for bicycle theft are consistently low.
Research indicates that bicycle theft is not only done for financial gain. For instance, a study in Ellenberg, Washington looking at patterns of recovered bicycles, indicated that around a quarter of the stolen bicycles were stolen to “joyride” or for transportation.
Of the bikes that are often recovered, the “proof of ownership problem”—surveys indicate that most bike owners do not know the serial number of the stolen bike or have documentation to prove ownership—often makes it difficult to return the bike to the rightful owner.
Consistent with patterns of vehicle crime, if a bicycle is stolen at one location, more instances are likely to occur nearby or around the same location. Another consistent finding is that most stolen bicycles are either not locked properly or they are secured with a lock that requires little force to remove—the cyclist locks only part of the bicycle or the bike is locked to street features, benches, or street signs, not intended for that purpose. Research out of London showed that of all bicycles stolen between 2004 and 2005, nearly three-quarters were “fly parked”—or parked to street features not intended to facilitate bike locking.
Funding and costs for this program is minimal.
As a result of all efforts, including the support and participation of community partners, bike theft in Bend has dropped more than 60 percent, based on a year-over-year analysis. Since implementation of its bait-bike program, the department has made 21 arrests.
The latest cycle for this program is currently completed. When Bend PD regains the staffing necessary for the program, the program will start again under the Problem Orientated Policing Team.
Critical Success Factors
Patrol officers focused efforts targeting serial bike thieves, familiarizing themselves with high-value bikes and components and thoroughly investigating recovered bikes to locate owners even without known serial numbers. Bait bikes became recognized, and word was out as officers began finding BPD bikes labeled “Bait.” Working with local bike shops was paramount to the overall success of the program.
Make sure that bikes used in the bait-bike operations are appraised and valued to the felony level. Rotate bikes often, using two or more bikes.
Related Research and Resources
POP Guide - Bicycle Theft (COPS Office)
Bike Theft FAQs (PPB)
Bend Police Launch Effort to Curb Bike Thefts (OPB)