Community helps recover stolen cargo bike used in homeless youth outreach program

Community helps recover stolen cargo bike used in homeless youth outreach program

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These images of a discarded bike sparked some sleuthing and action that led to a successful recovery.
(Photos by Mary C.)

It started with an email from a concerned Portlander and it ended with a bike being reunited with its owner — who in this case happened to be a non-profit organization that works with young people experiencing homelessness. There were no police involved, only people in our community who care about each other and who have an eye for bikes.

On Tuesday we got an email from southwest Portland resident Mary C. She saw what looked to be a cargo bike hidden under a pile of cardboard boxes on the side of her apartment on SW Montgomery. It looked out of place to her because, “This is obviously way too nice of a bike to be sitting, unlocked and hidden this way.” Being a helpful person, she called police and tried to search our stolen bike database but had no luck.

When she asked us, “How can this get spread to the bike community!?” I knew the perfect person to contact: Bryan Hance of BikeIndex.org. Bryan is Portland’s stolen bike recovery superhero. In addition to being a software guy who created StolenBicycleRegistry.com (which has since morphed into Bike Index) and created a custom plug-in for us, he’s also on our Bike Theft Task Force and spends most of his free time tracking down stolen bikes.

When Mary shared a photo of the bike, Bryan recalled that it looked very similar to this red bike I photographed at the Disaster Relief Trials event back in July 2014. While Bryan stayed in touch with Mary and urged her to lock up the bike immediately so it didn’t disappear again, I tried to contact Tom Labonty. Tom is the local builder/owner of Toms Cargo Bikes and the stolen bike — which was custom-built as a smoothie-making machine — was one of his creations.

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2014 Disaster Relief Trials-67

Tom Labonty with the bike in July 2014.
(Photo © J Maus/BikePortland)

When I got ahold of Tom he told me he no longer owned the bike. In fact, he had built three of them for a homeless youth outreach program run by Outside In, a non-profit based in downtown Portland. “This is really sad news,” Tom said, after finding out it had been stolen. Then he gave me the name of David Stone, the guy he worked with at Outside In. A quick email to David and he confirmed the bike had been stolen just one week ago.

Meanwhile, Bryan got Mary to lock up the bike and we looped everyone together via email. Mary gave David the combination to the lock and he was able to go over and recover the bike. Now it sits — all locked up and secure — in front of Outside In on SW 13th Avenue.

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This recovery was a great team effort. It shows that it doesn’t always take the involvement of the police to recover a stolen bike. Very often bikes are recovered because someone has a watchful eye and cares enough to take a few minutes to send a few emails.

With all the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad bike theft news we’ve been hearing about lately*, we really needed this!

Like stolen bike recovery stories? Read more of them in our archives.

*Stay tuned for more on that, and what we’ve been doing about it.


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