Bike Theft Task Force leader has left PPB; future of unit unclear


A busy Bike Theft Task Force booth at a 2019 Sunday Parkways event.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“Due to a lack of funds/budget, our unit has been suspended and is currently unable to respond to bike theft needs in the community.”
— Dave Sanders, Task Force founder and former PPB officer

A vital part of Portland’s fight against the scourge of bicycle theft has been mothballed.

Six years ago, as bike theft spun out of control in Portland, we brought people together to do something about it. With full support from the Chief of Police, we helped establish the Portland Police Bike Theft Task Force — a specialty unit devoted to tackling the problem. “This cannot continue,” said former PPB Chief Larry O’Dea at a press conference outside City Hall on March 31st, 2015. “Portland is a cycling city. Thousands of people depend on their bicycles every single day to get them to work, the store, school, and so on. Today is the day we as a community get organized to address this problem head-on.”

Advertisement

E-Bike Store Black Friday Sale -->

Advertisement

Fast forward to January 2021 and emails to the Bike Theft Task Force are met with a somber message: “Due to a lack of funds/budget, our unit has been suspended and is currently unable to respond to bike theft needs in the community. We do not foresee this changing any time in the near future based on the current trajectory of city priorities, though we recognize the urgent need to address this epidemic.”

Officer Dave Sanders in 2019.

The email is signed by PPB Officer Dave Sanders, who is now former PPB Officer Dave Sanders. Sanders decided to leave the bureau at the end of December to work for the Beaverton Police Department.

You might recall Sanders as the officer who reached out to me in October 2014 to raise the alarm about bike theft and express frustration that the PPB wasn’t taking it more seriously. It was my relationship with Sanders that led me to Chief O’Dea’s office and ultimately to the formation of the Task Force. Sanders, who patrolled the central city by bike with his partner and fellow Bike Theft Task Force (BTTF) Officer David Bryant, was extremely dedicated to fighting bike theft. Under his leadership (and without little to no funding), the BTTF registered thousands of bikes. The unit also gave away hundreds of free u-locks, educated the community about prevention techniques, helped returned stolen bikes to theft victims, investigated thefts, tracked down bike theft suspects, trained other PPB officers in the art and science of bike theft prevention and recovery, and collaborated with other agencies (most often the transportation bureau).

Advertisement

E-Bike Store Black Friday Sale -->

Advertisement

PPB Officers David Bryant (L), Chief O’Dea (middle) and Sanders (right) receive a donation in 2016.

Despite no dedicated budget (other than staff time), Sanders built a strong foundation for the BTTF using relationships, a few grants, donations, and hard work.

Sanders’ auto-reply email offers a window into his frustrations about the challenges he faced in the past year as his morale ebbed, bike theft remained a massive problem and the police budget came under intense scrutiny:

“Bike theft has climbed to an all-time historic high this year. This is directly related to the reduction in our police force as well as a lack of accountability in the criminal justice system for these offenses. Sadly, we anticipate the problem getting worse, barring any systemic change to the current approach to public safety. We hope that bike theft will be prioritized by the community once again at some point in the future. We are confident that controlling bike theft is an attainable goal, but it will require a concerted investment.”

Right now in Portland a credit card fraudster is hitting local bike shops and remains on the loose. The PPB is aware of the issue and is working with the community to stop it, but this is the type of situation where the expertise of Sanders would be invaluable.

Advertisement

E-Bike Store Black Friday Sale -->

Advertisement

The BTTF will suffer from a lack of leadership and effectiveness without Sanders at the helm, but not all is not lost. The official website remains as a resource and the PPB still works on bike theft cases. There’s also hope that some bike theft prevention and recovery efforts can be transitioned away from armed, sworn officers as part of Portland’s new approach to policing. The Portland Street Response, an effort championed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as a new policing model, has begun training and plans to roll out in February. It’s also notable that Hardesty also leads the Portland Bureau of Transportation, an agency that has long been a supporter of the BTTF and could take over some of the work (like registration drives, education, training and so on).

In the meantime, if you get your bike stolen, the best thing to do is report it immediately on BikeIndex.org and Project529.com. You should also file a police report online. The next step is to check local listings on OfferUp, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace to see if someone is trying to sell it. This and more info is still available on the FAQ page on the BTTF website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and [email protected]
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

E-Bike Store Black Friday Sale -->

Tags: Sport, Front Page, Cycling, Portland, City Hall, Sanders, Task Force, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Jonathan Maus, Larry O Dea, Bike Theft, Portland Bike Theft Task Force, Dave Sanders, BikeIndex, David Bryant, Facebook Marketplace, BTTF, Hardesty, Jo Ann Hardesty, Beaverton Police Department, Portland Police Bike Theft Task Force, Bike Theft Task Force, Dave Sanders Sanders

Source:  http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/BikePortland/~3/LihTgYd--8A/bike-theft-task-force-leader-has-left-ppb-future-of-unit-unclear-324764



Related:
September 25, 2020 at 3:11 PM Police budget cuts cripple bike theft response unit
June 4, 2020 at 2:15 PM Downtown bike shops on hunt for dozens of bikes stolen during protests
May 15, 2020 at 1:24 PM PPB Bike Theft Task Force recover 15 bikes, make two arrests in chop shop bust
April 20, 2020 at 8:31 PM Bike Theft Task Force launches registration drive with U-lock giveaway