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Facebook group recovers stolen vehicles in Portland area, reunites them with owners

After less than a year and with more than 10,000 people strong, crowdsourcing members have helped find hundreds of stolen cars in Multnomah County.

PORTLAND, Ore — Portland has a stolen cars problem. For those who have lived in the area for a while, that fact comes as no surprise. 

Data provided by Portland police shows that despite the recovery of a majority of those vehicles, thieves are stealing more cars, more often. 

From January to July 2020, some 3,300 cars were reported stolen to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). Two years later, over that same seven-month period, that statistic spiked to 6,312 stolen cars. 

A growing movement on social media aims to address that issue, with crowdsourcing members cross-referencing vehicle descriptions and vehicle identification numbers (VINs) with what they've seen and heard to help reunite owners with their stolen cars in the Facebook group called "PDX Stolen Cars."

"I had found a stolen car in my neighborhood. I knew it was stolen. I contacted the police and they said there's not a whole lot we can do right now. So I was like, 'Well see if I can do something," said founder Titan Crawford. "One day, it was 300 people, then 1,000 people [and] then 2,000. I'm going, 'Where are all these people coming from?' And realize there's a huge problem of theft of property."

OTHER STORIES: Mother pleads with Portland police to crack down on thefts of Kia, Hyundai vehicles

Crawford's group has grown to now more than 10,000 members, including auto repair shop owner, Nick Haas. 

"Just a shame, but as I say, necessity is the mother of invention," said Haas. 

Over the summer, PDX Stolen Cars helped hundreds of people relocate their vehicles, including Paul Regan, whose 1981 Chevy Camaro was stolen in May. With green stripes and the words 'No Pity' written on the back, the Timbers-themed car can't be missed.

"I think it was easy to spot. I'm sure [for] people who have just a Honda or a Subaru, it's much harder to to pick those out," Regan said. 

He reported the vehicle stolen to police, who then informed him about the PDX Stolen Cars group. 

"They said [to] contact different organizations, like Nextdoor. Put it on Nextdoor, and talk to PDX Stolen Cars," Regan said.

After about a month, someone using a drone spotted Regan's pride and joy at the dusty end of North Midway Avenue in the St. Johns neighborhood in the middle of a wooded area and on private property — a place widely understood, by those who live nearby, to be home to a notorious chop shop. 

Neighbors told KGW it's a worsening, scary situation with drug dealing, fires and people armed with weapons — on top of all the scrap metal and cars. 

The property owner told KGW it has gotten so bad over the last couple of years, that despite numerous efforts to call in police or city help, or correct the pricey problems on their own, the camp remains. 

On Thursday, Sgt. Kevin Allen, a Public Information Officer for PPB told KGW officers have been working on the issue at the N. Midway Avenue property for months, and that it is an ongoing effort. He said officers recovered stolen cars from that location and have responded to other calls for service on the private property. 

In addition, Sgt. Allen explained the Neighborhood Response Team has been in contact with the property owner and is collaborating on strategies to address the illegal camping and criminal issues. He said PPB does have the authority to go onto the property and has done so on numerous occasions. 

OTHER STORIES: Portland business owner's rental van, $10,000 worth of equipment stolen

In this location in early June, Haas and several others located the 'No Pity' Camaro towards the back of the property before stepping in to retrieve it. It was covered in dirt, but mostly intact. 

"It was stuck in a mud," said Regan. "We had to winch it out, which was a whole thing too, and then drove it out."

Regan said he's grateful for the group full of people that didn't give up and helped him find his car. 

"Thank gosh they're doing what they're doing," he said. "It seems like such a great way because it's just rampant right now."

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