‘Forward thinking’ probation helps police arrest longtime bike trafficker

“The kingpin”

“A pillar”

That’s how Portland Police Officer Dave Sanders describes Leroy Parsons Jr.

The two men have known each other for years.

“For the last 10 years, he’s been one of the pillars in downtown who networks stolen bikes,” Sanders said after Parsons, 50, was recently given a 25 month prison sentence for violating his probation.

“I think it’s a big win for the community,” Sanders said of the sentence.

Since 1997, Parsons has been booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center nearly 80 times for various reasons, according to court documents. He has also been the subject of police reports more than 200 times.

Parsons even caught the attention of a national news organization reporting on stolen bikes in the city.

“He’s kind of the trafficker of stolen bikes,” Sanders said.

In all of the years Sanders and Parsons have known each other, Parsons has never had a legitimate job, according to Sanders.

It became routine for Sanders to find Parsons who “always seem[ed] to have expensive bikes, laptops, tablet computers, multiple phones (including one time when the defendant had eight separate smartphones)…,” according to court documents filed in 2015.

Sanders described Parsons’ bike trafficking network as being pervasive. During their years of investigating Parsons, police learned he would have people stealing bikes throughout downtown and bringing them back to him at his tents and makeshift “chop shop.”

It didn’t stop with bikes, according to police. The group was known to commit smash and grabs from cars parked in downtown.

“These criminals are semi-organized in the sense that they know what they are stealing and they usually use these bikes as street currency a lot of times to trade for drugs,” Sanders said. “He was kind of the hub for a lot of those transactions.”

In December 2015, Multnomah County Judge John A. Wittmayer handed down a 30 month prison sentence for Parsons after he pleaded guilty to one count of theft in the second degree and two counts of theft in the first degree.

It was an unprecedented sentence at the time and one the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office vigorously fought for given Parsons’ prolific criminal behavior targeting the cycling community in Portland. 

As part of his sentence in 2015, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Hayden (now retired), who was in charge of the Neighborhood Unit, strategically, and with great ingenuity, presented the Court a list of special conditions for probation that Parsons would have to adhere to – for five years – once released from the Oregon Department of Corrections.

The Court accepted Hayden’s list of special conditions for probation, which included Parsons not be in possession of any bike, cell phone, computer tablet, camera, or gift card without advance written permission from his probation officer. If Parsons wanted to make a request, he would have to provide a photo of the item and include the item’s serial number.

Hayden, recognizing Parsons’ previous criminal behavior, defined “possession” in the proposed probation order so that there would be no question about it once Parsons’ started his probation.

The conditions were strict and intentional. Sanders said they were a “huge factor’ in keeping Parsons answerable for any criminal conduct upon his release from prison.

“I really appreciated the forward thinking by DDA Hayden who put together Leroy’s probation conditions,” Sanders said. “It was very insightful of him to think about the specific conditions that would keep him in line, and once he went outside those boundaries, it made it easy for us to hold him accountable,” Sanders said.

That accountability came this July when Sanders and other members of the PPB Bike Theft Task Force were doing follow up work on a case involving a bike that had been reported stolen earlier this spring. Police found Parsons sleeping inside a tent at Northeast 11th and Northeast Irving.

“I could see into his tent even without opening it and … I could see stacks of electronics, tablets, phones, drug paraphernalia, bike parts, bike tools, all of which are violations of his probation. … I felt like we went back in time,” Sanders said.

Investigating stolen bikes can be difficult for police because criminals are almost immediately disguising or dismantling the bikes, something Parsons was notorious at doing.

“He did work on them extensively,” Sanders said.

When police located Parsons on July 28, they booked him into jail and alleged he had committed a new crime by being in possession of stolen property.

Working in conjunction with Portland Police and Multnomah County’s Parole and Probation Department, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Sam Leineweber decided that it would be more judiciously prudent to make a probation violation allegation against Parsons instead of starting new criminal proceedings.

Parsons appeared before Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Eric L. Dahlin on August 8, 2018 and stipulated that he was in violation of the probation conditions imposed in 2015.

Judge Dahlin sentenced Parsons to 25 months in prison for the violation.

“Hopefully removing him from the mix will shake things up a little bit,” Sanders said.

For more information on the Portland Police Bureau’s Bike Theft Task Force, please click here. The most important tip the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and PPB Bike Theft Task Force can provide to the public is to document the serial number of your bicycle and take photos of it, including any distant markings or embellishments.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has additional resources on how to prevent your bike from being stolen.

Photo Gallery

All photos used in this story are used with permission from the Portland Police Bureau’s Bike Theft Task Force and were taken in July 2018 when Parsons was arrested.

Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director

Phone: 503.988.6567

Email: Brent.Weisberg@nullmcda.us