by: Marshall Santos, Bill Swanson, of the Portland Police Bureau’s Property and Evidence Division, stands among the dozens of unclaimed bicycles in the division’s warehouse. If a bike is unclaimed after 30 days, it will either be sold or thrown away. Recognize one, in this picture?

Bicycles are very popular - not only with the riders, but also with thieves.

Hundreds of bikes are stolen each year, many of them in Inner Southeast Portland. It has become such a problem here that the Neighborhood Response Team Officers (NRT) assigned to Inner Southeast neighborhoods have been periodically conducting 'bicycle missions," using decoy bikes and surveillance to catch the thieves at work.

Of the more than 1,000 bicycles that end up at the Portland Police Bureau's property and evidence room each year, only about 5 percent are ever returned to their owners.

'Most of the time, victims of bike theft don't have serial numbers of their bikes,' explains Bill Swanson, evidence control supervisor at the Police Bureau's Property/Evidence Division. 'So they don't report it.'

Properly documenting a bicycle in case of theft is easy, and takes less time than most television commercial breaks. But, since hundreds of bicycles go unclaimed each year after the police get them back from the thieves, it seems very few people take the time to complete that process.

'Or insurance covers the loss, and they forget about it,' sighed Swanson.

The Portland Police Bureau has posted a webpage -- more about that shortly -- to inform Portland residents about the importance of documenting a bicycle, as well as to provide a source for safety tips.

During the last five years, an average of 1,313 bikes per year were reported stolen, according to Police Bureau statistics. Swanson, who has been with the Property/Evidence Division for 18 years, said that the number of unreported bike thefts is significantly higher, since many victims don't file a police report.

When officers retrieve stolen bicycles, the Police Bureau checks bicycle serial numbers against a national database of reported thefts.

The bikes that end up in the Police Bureau's property and evidence room have either been stolen, abandoned, or have gone unclaimed by released prisoners. Bikes that have not been claimed - and there are a lot of them - and which meet certain guidelines are sold on eBay. Those not meeting the guidelines are thrown away. The point is clear: Get the serial number off your bike, save it in a place you can easily find, and if your bike is stolen, report it for heaven's sake!

Portland Police Chief Rosanne Sizer says the bureau is doing its part to help return the bicycles to their rightful owners, now the public has to do their part. 'We know how important bikes are in peoples' lives,' says Sizer. 'To some, it's their main mode of transportation. Since we check to see if bikes are stolen, we hope bicycle owners will take the time to properly document their property, so they stand a chance of getting it back.'

For more information about documenting your bicycle, or to download a bike documentation form, visit the Internet website:, click on the 'Resource' tab, then click on 'Program and Services', and the bicycle safety and theft information can be accessed under the heading 'Auto and Traffic Safety'.

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