Major bike-fencing operation operates out of two Portland buildings, Lake Oswego police say

Major bike-fencing operation operates out of two Portland buildings, Lake Oswego police say

Bike racks at SW 12th and Washington
where stolen bikes are frequently locked up.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Fencing operations for stolen bicycles are currently operating out of two downtown Portland buildings, Lake Oswego police say.

Det. Lee Ferguson said in an interview last week that Lake Oswego police officers tracked a handful of bikes stolen from that city to apartment buildings at SW 10th and Salmon and SW 12th and Washington. He said someone operating out of those buildings consistently purchases bicycles from people who steal them, then locks them at bike racks outside.

A third party then stops by to inspect the bikes, Ferguson said, makes arrangements to purchase them, gets a key from the fence and takes them away.

“They’re gone within hours, and they’re all very nice bikes,” Ferguson said. “He has 20 visitors a day. He’s in his 40s and these are all kids. Street kids mostly. … This sounds like, from the street people we were talking to, primiarly heroin addicts, that they’re trading it for dope.”

“They’re gone within hours, and they’re all very nice bikes… they’re trading it for dope.”
— Detective Lee Ferguson, Lake Oswego PD

Ferguson’s story is consistent with an anonymous tip received by BikePortland three weeks ago. We notified the owner of a stolen bike that had been spotted outside one of the buildings. Unfortunately, that bike was never recovered.

Ferguson said his office hasn’t been able to make any arrests in the case because it’s so difficult to prove that the buyer of a stolen bike is aware it has been stolen. Ferguson said his agency informed the Portland Police Bureau’s central precinct of the issue and was contacting BikePortland in hopes of spreading the word further.

Ferguson said the people involved in the operation are fully aware of the LO police investigation and that he didn’t believe news coverage of the issue would interfere with enforcement. In a follow-up interview Wednesday, Ferguson said the illegal operation continues.

Ferguson said the apartment manager for one of the buildings, whose shift ends at 4 p.m., has given up trying to address the situation.

“She says they literally stand outside until they know she’s going to leave,” he said. “She’s made a few calls to Portland and nothing’s really resulted either.”

In an email Tuesday, Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Peter Simpson said he would look into the issue. People who come across their stolen property, he said, should “call the non-emergency line, (503) 823-3333; or, 911 if it’s an emergency. Of course we also encourage people to file lost or stolen bike reports so that we can accurately reunite people with their property. Serial numbers are key and we can take reports online at www.portlandpolice.com.”

BikePortland and StolenBikeRegistry.com also maintain a searchable public database of stolen bikes. Listings are free.

Ferguson, the Lake Oswego detective, said his colleagues discovered the fence operation after a rash of bike thefts on their turf.

“We knew that three kids who used to live around here or still live with our parents are heroin addicts,” he said. “We picked them up downtown and talked to them and one thing led to another. … Two of our officers sort of worked it on their extra time.”

Ferguson said his office will continue to be in contact with Portland police.

“We’re going to forward them reports and we don’t know who it’s going to go to,” he said. “We can’t spend a lot of time in Portland watching bikes.”

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