Security video helps police nab prolific bike thief (yet again)

Security video helps police nab prolific bike thief (yet again)


Johnathan Dubouis in March 2015 in Waterfront Park
under the Burnside Bridge. He asked to pose with
these bolt-cutters, which PPB officers photographed
as evidence prior to arresting him.
(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)

The Portland Police have nabbed one of our city’s most prolific bike thieves: 29-year old Johnathan Marcel Dubouis. Dubouis was arrested on Sunday night, just about 24 hours after he appeared in security camera footage stealing a woman’s bike in southwest Portland.


Screengrab from KGW story.

On Saturday evening, KGW-TV ran a story about a bike theft that happened in front of the Multnomah Athletic Club in Goose Hollow. The segment aired footage from the club’s security camera that showed a man committing the theft. His long red hair was unmistakable for those of us that know Dubouis from his previous activities.

Back in November 2014 I recovered my own bike from underneath the I-5 overpass adjacent to the Eastbank Esplanade. With my bike firmly in hand I rode past some people who live under the freeway near the Hawthorne Bridge. As I did, Dubouis poked his head up. I knew his face from a “hot sheet” of known bike thieves the PPB had sent around to local bike shops.

Dubouis noticed me as I rode slowly past because I was ghost-riding a bike with one hand. Still upset at having my bike stolen, I asked him what he and others were doing with so many bikes and bike parts. He said they were just fixing up bikes that people people donate to them. When I told him mine had been stolen and I was suspicious that perhaps he knew something about it, he became upset and told me to leave. So I did; but not before hearing him rattle off a bunch of things about my bike. He was listing its features and components as if to impress me with his bike knowledge (instead, it just confirmed for me that he’s probably the guy who stole my bike).


Dubouis in November 2014.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A few days later I returned to the Esplanade (underneath the Burnside Bridge) to check on a tip about a pile of bikes underneath a tarp. As I poked around the tarp, someone appeared from under the bridge. It was Dubouis. On that occasion we chatted for several minutes. I told him I wanted to learn more about bike theft in Portland. He said he knew people that were involved in it; but that he personally was just liked fixing them up and collecting vintage parts. He admitted to me he’d been arrested for bike theft but that he was always let go due to lack of evidence or proof of his guilt.

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Since that meeting, Dubouis has been arrested twice for bike theft.

On the night March 13th, he was taken into custody after PPB Officers Dave Bryant and Dave Sanders (the two Central Precinct officers we work with on the Bike Theft Task Force) questioned him about some suspicious bicycles he was working on under the west end of the Burnside Bridge. These officers know Dubouis well and have arrested him for bike theft “multiple times” before.

In the arrest report filed after that March 13th arrest, Ofcr. Sanders shared this interesting back-and-forth (emphases mine):

“While we were talking with Dubois [sic]… he would periodically fiddle with his bike. Welsh [another man they’ve arrested for bike theft in the past] and Dubois both asked us questions about the media attention regarding bike theft and we discussed this issue with them at length. At one point, I asked Dubois what his solution was to addressing bike theft in the city and he said, “I’d tell ’em to stop stealing the shitty bikes, and just go after the nice ones”. He said that anyone who locks up a $3000 bike with a cable lock ‘won’t make that mistake twice’. He told me on his own to the effect of ‘I’m not saying I’ve never stolen a bike before’. To this, I asked him how many bikes he’s stolen. He said “about seven”. Additionally, he told me he has stolen bike components before as well, and then proceeded to make fun of people who left bike lights, etc. on their bikes. Dubois told me he does not steal bikes anymore, though.”

The officers also found a pair of large bolt-cutters in Dubouis’ possession. Sanders wanted to photograph them as evidence and Dubouis requested to pose in the photo.

Dubouis’ latest arrest for bike theft was on Sunday night. Sanders said the video allowed them to identify Dubouis and go pick him up. Now Sanders is working with the Deputy District Attorney to see what type of charges might apply. In Oregon, property theft becomes a felony if the stolen items are worth over $1,000.

Even if Dubouis gets the felony charge, his jail sentence won’t amount to much and he’ll soon be back on the street. Even Leroy Parsons, a man the PPB call the “kingpin” of bike theft who admitted stealing expensive bikes on a KGW-TV segment, served just 90 days. (And by the way, Sanders told me at Sunday Parkways that Parsons is back on the streets already.)

These cases illustrate that enforcement isn’t the only tool we need to address bike theft. Bike theft is just the tip of a very large iceberg of failed social policies and a lack of funding for people in need. Both Parsons and Dubouis (and many other people arrested for bike theft) are methamphetamine addicts who need help to treat their abuse and get their lives turned around.

If you’re frustrated, you might like to hear what Ofcr. Sanders had to share about the change he’s noticed in the bureau since the bike theft issue has been given a higher profile:

“I was encouraged that we were able to identify/arrest Dubois based on the video. Also encouraging was the fact that I instantly received emails from officers who recognized Dubois after the video was aired on KGW. That shows an increased awareness of bike theft by officers on the streets and an awareness of those stealing them. Every day around the office, I am hearing officers talking about bike theft cases and sharing information about them — something that was largely absent even several years ago. I hope this trend continues as we promote the problem more to our officers in Portland.”

Educating officers about bike theft is one of the main areas that Ofcr. Sanders and his partner Dave Bryant have focused on as part of their work on the Bike Theft Task Force. That effort is now four months old and continues to grow and get stronger. Stay tuned for more updates.

In the meantime, please contact Mayor Charlie Hales and let him know that want him to make these issues a higher priority.

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