Rash of Stolen Packages in Columbia Heights

DSCN7203, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

On the Columbia Heights Listserv I’ve received a number of notices of packages being stolen. Below is a sampling:

“Fed Ex envelope taken from my mailbox with valuable content.” (1300 block of Monroe)

“I also had a package stolen from 700 block of Harvard … gotta get signature delivery/do not drop instructions for everything now I guess.”

From the 1300 block of Euclid (the following has been slightly edited):

“A middle-aged woman in a blue knit cap came up the walk with a box of pills in her hand and walked to the buzzer confidently. She dialed a number on the intercom, let it ring, and stood out of line of the camera. We then asked her if she knew someone in the building or if she was dialing someone in particular. She told us she was here to deliver pills (in a MTWThFSSu box) to Mr. Baker. We told her that there was no Mr. Baker in the building, and that she may be looking for someone else in another building next door or two doors down. She talked to us, not leaving the front stoop.

We explained that we had had packages stolen from the building, and that she fit the description of the person who was seen stealing packages in the neighborhood, and that if she didn’t leave the area we would call the police. At that point, she walked down the steps to the building next door (east), but kept going (east) to the next building as the street was busy.

We tried to snap a picture as she left and we have a picture of her back, but not of her face, and it is not very clear.

This is a reminder to keep an eye out for her, and to request that couriers deliver directly to your door and out of sight, rather than leave them at the table in the lobby.”

If you don’t have a lobby, what do you guys do when packages get delivered? A friend of mine always has them delivered to work.

23 Comment

  • I too always have my packages delivered to work and don’t worry about secretaries’ comments about my shopping habits. At least I’ll get my package.

  • This seems silly. If you see a person on your door step who matched the discription of someone wanted for a crime, why on earth would you threaten to call the police if they did not go a way? How about actually calling the police and helping to get the person office the street?

  • Yah, geez, are these people new to DC? If your packages are on your porch, they’re gone. In DC, if its out in public, it is public.

  • Yep, have them delivered to work. Why risk it? Of course if the packages are things that you have bought, catalogs soon follow so you may want to call any vendors to take your office address off the catalog list (It worked for me).

  • No offense Pennywise, but you can’t just blame this problem on D.C….. Getting packages delivered to your house when you’re not home, leaving your laptop/iPod/GPS in your car in plain sight, these are what MPD refer to as an idiot tax. It’s still a crime and they will pursue it, but let’s be honest, in situations like this you really do have no one to blame but yourself.

  • A little background. I was the one that forwarded the note about the lady with the pill box. I was not involved, but the gentleman involved lives in the building in which I own one of the units. The gentleman is not new to DC, but honestly, faced with the situation of facing a suspected criminal who among us knows exactly what they’d do. One may imagine that they’d go Jack Bower on their ass, but only when actually faced with the situation would we know what we’d do. IMHO, I think threatening to call the cops is a legitimate response mostly because when faced with a danger one would most likely protect themselves and those around them before thinking about society as a whole.

    The building in question, over the last several months, has had several packages stolen. We’ve only recently begun to realize that this suspect is/may be the reason why. It’s very easy to be a nice guy/girl and let the person coming up the stairs behind you to hold the door for that person. The building in question is not a large building, but if it were how can anyone be expected to recognize every resident. This is how she’s gotten in in the past. The gentleman at least had the wherewithal to recognize that something wasn’t quite right and that she fit the description of the suspect.

    On a larger scale, this woman, or several that may match her description, has been making her rounds up and down the neighborhood (mostly CH by the accounts I’ve seen) from as far north as Quincy and as far south as Belmont off of 14th. If faced with a building with a lobby she performs her little charade. If faced with packages left on stoops, she confidently walks up and grabs them.

    Another account, off of one of the many listserv, was of a man catching her in action at his own residence. Though he had no packages for her to take, he began dialing the police and followed her as she briskly walked away. She eventually got away, but in the escape, she actually had the guts to check another stoop.

    While I agree that if a package gets left on a porch, one should not expect it to be there when you return. However, there is the problem of delivery. Many, not all, of our carriers are leaving “Signature Required” packages without signatures, or worse, with unrecognizable signatures. I’ve always made sure my packages are sent with “Signature Required” but most times, I find that the package was delivered anyway. For me, there’s at least a hidden spot (which I shall not reveal) that the carrier seems to like to use to deliver the packages, but as in that picture above, not every porch has that luxury. What I did do was call the delivery service and reiterated to them the meaning of “Signature Required”. They responded positively! So much so, that the next time I had a package en route, the driver called me and asked me if anyone would be home and if not when would someone be home! Talk about refreshing service.

    Back to the lady and what you can do. First, make sure all packages you order are delivered “Signature Required”. Second, if you live in a building with a lobby, be very suspicious of tailgaters when entering/leaving the building. I know it means being an a-hole, but sometimes you gotta just say “I don’t know you.”

    In regards to calling the cops. There has been some back and forth discussion on some of the listservs as to whether or not this falls under MPD jurisdiction or whether it’s an FBI issue. I really couldn’t speak to either but the issue was raised only because mail theft is a federal crime.

  • Part of the problem is with the delivery services – I always thought UPS/FedEx/USPS leave a note/indication that they’ve attempted delivery, then at least one can be on the lookout for packages on subsequent days. However, in the brief time that I’ve lived here, I’ve lost 2 packages, just because UPS etc just can’t be bothered to do that, despite repeated requests to ask for signatures and ID and not to leave stuff out. Very Very ANNOYING. My fav is when the USPS delivery guy left 10 boxes of my media mail sitting out with the trash. Nice, right? Luckily I was home…

  • Have any of the folks who have had items stolen reported the thefts to the US Postal Inspection Service? https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov

    that’s who investigates stolen/diverted US mail.

  • I found a USPS package stuck in the bottom of a bush next to my house….NINE MONTHS after it was “delivered.” USPS also “lost” $200 worth of equipment I was trying to send to Pennsylvania. Screw USPS.

  • @monkeyerotica – that’s priceless!

  • our idiot of a UPS dude will leave one of those package slips that are supposed to be you missed a packaged that needed signature and then write on it LOOK BEHIND THE BUSH TO YOUR LEFT. which sort of defeats the whole purpose. it also requires the receiver of the package to either do a spiderman hang off the porch railing or climb into the giant bush.

    thusly everything is delivered to my parents house in vienna or to my office depending on the size.

  • Another option if you live near a UPS Store is to open a mail box with them and they receive your packages and let you know that you have one waiting for you. The good thing about UPS Box vs a PO Box is that PO Boxes only accept packages from things sent through the post office, not UPS, FedEx or DHL, whereas a UPS Store Box accepts packages from all carriers. If you do a lot of online shopping or get expensive things through the mail, it is definitely worth it and you don’t have to be there to sign for it. My old neighbor wroks from home and his business requires receiving a lot of samples and packages, so he set that system up and has a very good working relationship with the UPS Store people in CH (next to the Rubys).

    If you only get very occasional package, especially if it is high value, you could call your local UPS Store and see if you can send it to their store, and then you just pay-per-package they receive for you, but they need a warning that you expect something.

  • I feel like PoP has had a post about this before. It’s not anything new. I do have a great stolen story from Columbia Heights though. A friend used to get his Netflix DVDs stolen from his mailbox and then the theif would return the movie after they’d watched it in anticipation of receiving a new one. Needlesss to say, friend started getting his Netflix delivered to his office.

  • That’s awesome re: Netflix.

  • Odd. I have lived here 24+ years and have never had any packages stolen off of my porch. Lucky I guess!

  • Plenty of people can’t get their packages delivered at work, unfortunately.

  • after having a package stolen from my logan circle apt a few years ago I get my packages at work, and i have to endure the comments about my office thinking am a compulsive shopper. it’s seriously annoying and probably not very professional of me either, but i don’t have a choice.

  • “In regards to calling the cops. There has been some back and forth discussion on some of the listservs as to whether or not this falls under MPD jurisdiction or whether it’s an FBI issue. I really couldn’t speak to either but the issue was raised only because mail theft is a federal crime.”

    If MPD busts someone with stolen USPS mail, you generally have to call the postal inspector and ask them what they want done; they don’t generally arrest without a go-ahead for that kind of U.S. Code violation. If it’s a UPS/FedEx package, that’s generally dealt with as a theft. I have no idea why the FBI would even care if USPS barely cares about the occasional stolen mail.

  • I’m a nice lady at the front desk; you know, the one who constantly fills her candy dish for when you walk by needing a sugar fix. I just have to add that if you do decide to get stuff delivered to work PLEASE come get it asap – especially if it’s heavy. Last year I hurt my back trying to deliver all the stuff during the holidays because my area got too filled and some of you couldn’t be bothered to walk over and pick up boxes. I’d never steal, but when you’re disrupting our business with your personal stuff, it’s tempting. Thanks.

  • I cured my Netflix thief by stacking all my foreign language titles, mostly Russian, in a row. (Prisoner of the Mountains is a must-see)

  • Yeah, I just got an envelope full of tax papers stolen off my porch. From now on, if it doesn’t fit through the slot, signature only.

  • I haven’t had anything stolen yet, but then I think I’ve benefited from the unemployed guys directly across the street. They hang out on their front porch for hours and hours each day. Since one of them is the son of a grandmother who has befriended me, they leave my stuff alone, but I also think they help prevent others from taking my stuff.

    But, I have put a heavy duty chain through my furniture out there.

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