80°Partly Cloudy

Dear PoPville – Advice on Dealing with Package Thieves and an Unhelpful MPD Response

by Prince Of Petworth April 23, 2013 at 11:00 am 57 Comments


Dear PoPville,

My apartment building has had a series of stolen packages. We’ve caught the guy on videotape (same guy), taken precautions (new door security, new security cameras, police surveillance) and are putting in a locked door to our mailroom, but he keeps getting in, usually at night with a crowbar.

I wonder if any other neighbors around the Mount Pleasant/Columbia Heights/Adama Morgan neighborhoods have had something similar?

… and I also wonder if you know of any way to report police deterring people from filing reports. Several neighbors have said they were deterred from filing a report because it “wouldn’t be solved anyway.” Sounds a lot like other experiences I’ve heard on PoPville. Any advice?

  • Anonymous

    Put some dog poop or other gross things in a Dell, Amazon, or other attractive looking box and place it in the mail room where the jerk is stealing stuff.

    Better still, rig up some type of spring mechanism so that it will softly project the poop onto the thief’s face/upper torso when he/she opens the box.

    • anonymous

      Years ago (pre 9/11), I played pool with a guy who did something like this. Excecpt he would gift wrap a box and leave it on a Metro platform …. and he didn’t use dog poop.

      • Anonymous

        what did he use?

        synthetic stool?

        • I’ll take “homosapien feces” for $800, Alex.

          • anonymous

            Ding ding ding!!! We have a winner!

  • anon

    you can file electronic reports for theft with DC. doesn’t mean they’ll do anything, but at least you’l have the report to submit to the shipping company for package/property replacement

  • whats your address? i will stake him out

  • When reporting the crime, ask for the officers name and badge number up front. If they attempt to discourage you, call the district commander directly, their cell phone numbers are usually listed on the MPD website, and report what happened.

    • This is the single most effective thing I’ve used when an officer gives off that “I couldn’t care less” vibe. It tells them you are serious and they should be too.

    • Q-Street

      Good to know. I was discouraged from filing a police report when some tools were stolen from my house a year ago. Ultimately they would only take down a ‘missing property’ report; I assume so that they would not have to investigate.

  • Anonymous

    I just filed a report against an officer that refused to take down a complaint about stolen property because, “Nothing will come of it anyways.” There are a lot of great cops in this city that care about their jobs and the safety of the people, but there is also rampant laziness within the force.

  • Anonymous

    File the complaints. Even if they are not high priority, at some point, with violent crime down, the numbers will push MPD to focus on the current crime picture, including thefts.

    • OP

      OP here…
      I’ve advised neighbors to do just this… I think it’s important that it’s recorded; want to make sure everyone in the neighborhood does that if this is recurring. Even if MPD doesn’t do anything, they’ll start to get a larger record of it happening…

  • if MPD isn’t responsive tell your ANC and your DC council member

    • anon

      or…be more proactive and make your voice heard that the budget needs to be increased for MPD. Currently, the force is at the lowest it has been in about 10 years and they’re finding it difficult to retain officers given that there hasn’t been a raise in about 3 years. This is a budget issue, DC needs to hear people voice their complaints. The Cops aren’t lazy or unconcerned, the problem is on the scale of DC issues petty theft really isn’t their priority. They need a larger force so that it can become a priority.

      Budget hearings for MPD are on Monday morning at 10am for FY14. Go make your voice heard.

      • Anonymous

        Probably the most intelligent response written in here. This is the only thing that will have a meaningful, longterm impact.

        • Anonymous

          I dunno. Poop in a box was pretty helpful.

      • Brezinkitis

        MPD has more officers per person than any large department in the country (See Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics).

  • If the package was sent via USPS you can report it to the postal inspector:

  • Anonymous

    This has happened a couple of times in my building in Columbia Heights. MPD has told me that it’s a Postal Police issue since MPD has more pressing issues. Good luck getting Postal Police.

    • Petworth14

      It’s not a postal service issue, it’s an MPD issue. In fact, it’s supposedly so important that it’s one of the two federal offenses that MPD has the authority to enforce. (tampering w/ mail & theft of gov’t property).

      File a complaint with the DC Office of Police Complaints, an investigating agency independent of MPD.

      It’s really bad to discourage people from reporting crime, but I’m guessing that’s how they are able to say that crime is down.

  • Mt P resident

    We had this issue last year, we had several packages stolen from our front porch. We got a mailbox at the UPS store on Monroe St in CoHi and send anything of value there. They have Saturday hours so you can pick up then if you can’t after work. They were really nice and it wasn’t that expensive.

    • P. Resident

      If one of these stores was to open in Petworth, I’m sure they’d get a lot of business.

  • Suse

    Until this gets resolved and if possible, use your work address for package deliveries.

  • Anonymous

    I recently had my iPhone stolen. I reported it to MPD and filed a report. I also tracked the iPhone to a suburb outside of DC using an app. MPD told me they couldn’t do anything about it since it was out of their jurisdiction. VA police said they couldn’t do anything about it since the crime happened in DC and it was out of their jurisdiction. Never did find out the answer to that one. Ended up just shutting off service and buying a new one since no one was willing to help.

    • Anonymous

      I should add that I had an exact address where the stolen iPhone was located.

      • Park View

        And you didn’t vigilante the perp? Do you still have the address? I am happy to serve some justice.

  • Anon2

    Take a still photo from the video where you can see his face and make up some reward-for-information flyers (using a non-personal and/or identifying email address) – post them around your building and the immediate neighborhood. He might see them and get spooked.

  • bruno

    Not a direct answer to your question, but I suggest you make regular patrols of your block to look for abandoned packages. I ln Mt. P. I often find parcels on the roadside, or stuck in a shrub, with the item still in it. I guess the thieves take stuff and if they don’t like it, toss it aside. In short, the stuff may still be around. Just keep an eye open.

    • EK

      I’ve definitely seen packages in alleys that were stolen, opened and left because the contents weren’t interesting. Guess the protein powder wasn’t worth taking? I’ve been lucky and been able to still read the address and re-deliver the package.

      • harillka

        LOL – I had someone steal my package – talk about uninteresting!

        it was the complete HTS schedule and 22 CFR. Talk about 15 pounds of paper on federal regulations!

        I found the package and its contents down in our laundry room!

        • Anonymous

          I think an interesting Friday Question would be “What item(s) have you had stolen from your yard (packages or otherwise)?” Bet we’d get some crazy answers.

          • Yes, a postscript to my account is that I return the packages I find to their owners.

        • I don’t know what the HTS schedule is, but I got a kick out of imagining the thief’s face when he opened the package and saw Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations.


  • Paige

    Columbia Heights — we’re having packages stolen off our porch (in a fenced-in yard) almost daily. Unfortunately it began around the time of my wedding, so who knows how many wedding gifts have been stolen in all. We’re video taping and giving evidence to the police. I would love the police’s help.

  • bgluckman

    If it were me, I’d start camping out in the mailroom at night with a crowbar of my own.

  • When I lived in Columbia Heights, we had a problem where the thieves were following the UPS driver into the building. The UPS driver would drop off the packages in the lobby and when he/she left, they thieves took packages. That’s when I started having packages delivered to my office.

  • ag

    Agree this is a postal problem, not an MPD problem. Tampering with the mail is, by the way, a felony.

    It’s not Postal Police, though. I’m not actually sure it’s Postal Inspection Service, either. Start with the consumer affairs division of the USPS. Call 1.800.ASK.USPS and tell them you need to be connected with DC Consumer Affairs to report theft.

  • Is the area monitored? If someone is breaking in with a crowbar, that should trip an alarm that gets police response to catch him in the act.

  • ET

    It sounds like this issue is more than just package thefts if he is breaking and entering.

    Most PSAs have monthly crime meeting where the Lt or if he isn’t available a ranking subordinate shows up to talk about crime and such in the neighborhood. Possibly approach him/her and mention the B&E and video, etc. It is up to you if you want to mention the not taking reports thing, but make is sound more important than stealing packages – and frankly it sounds like it is.

    While most package theft is a crime of opportunity and finding who did it is next to impossible in most cases, this dude seems to be on a different level and is likely the person most responsible for this in that neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    I live in a building in Adams Morgan. Also suspect that packages are getting stolen from the lobby. Especially ones that people leave for a few days because they’re out of town. Interestingly enough we have been having some door issues too. Maybe because the same dude opened it with a crowbar?! I’m going to request that my building install some cameras.

  • Anonymous

    I think that if someone is breaking into your building with a crowbar and stealing things, it should be MPD’s problem. Taking mail from a mailbox or a front porch is one thing; breaking and entering with the intent to commit a crime is more serious and more threatening.

  • Anonymous

    I live on the border of Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights and we’ve had a serial package thief working our building, although in our case, UPS and USPS just leave packages outside of each tenant’s door. But if your guy is crowbar-ing open the mailroom…dang, that takes some determination. I think our building management has reported thefts to the police, but not sure how much good it’s done. In my specific case, I haven’t tried to report anything…my packages simply weren’t there when they’d been delivered, and since I didn’t witness anything, I have no way of knowing whether they were stolen or just lost elsewhere.

    • Anonymous

      Park Meridian? Either way we have the same issue here, and I’m getting so incredibly sick of it. Hopefully the new management company will put up a damn camera at the mailboxes.

  • CoHi – we’ve had intermittent issues with package thieves (about every few months). Best solution we’ve come up with is having a resident move the packages from the lobby into our laundry room, which can only be accessed by residents. There’s occasional talk of installing some sort of package bin in the lobby and giving a key to USPS/UPS/FedEx, but it doesn’t seem like something they’d actually adhere to.

    Unfortunately the best option really is to have packages shipped to your office.

  • Interesting. I keep having packages stolen from my lobby, where the UPS guy leaves them. I have been sending most to my office, but I think a cheap phone charger I ordered may have been stolen yesterday. I order a lot of stuff and my mail guy at work is cool about it, but I don’t want to ship everything to work.

    I just assumed it was someone in my building, but this following the UPS guy in thing sounds plausible as well.

  • wylie coyote

    Judging from the comments, I think if you put up the address to your building and a general description of the perp, there are enough people in PoPville alone willing to volunteer to stake out your building to catch this perp in no time. I’d try to track down the Guardian Angels as well, especially since you have video of the perp.

  • mmm

    I filed an online complaint with MPD about stolen USPS packages and the complaint was rejected. They called me and said it was a USPS issue, not a MPD issue.

    So I called USPS who opened a case. I got a call from someone who asked me innocently, and I quote, “what do you want me to do about it?”


  • Anonymous

    Though not exactly surprising, it is very disturbing that so many people are having problems with the MPD not taking theft seriously.

  • Anonymous

    Lots of Internet Tough Guys/Full-time Desk Jockeys, ITT.

  • MK

    If you have the guy on videotape check around to see if some news show will show the tape on the air. Maybe they can turn it into a “how common is this in your area” type report. Hopefully, the cops would be forced to take action.

    • OP

      OP here – I love this idea!

      • NBC4?

        Yes!! And get Pat Collins on the case!!! :) Actually, don’t, because people might make a mockery out of it… but I do think this is a great idea.

        I also want to add myself to the list of those who want to make sure you know that the breaking/entering IS an MPD issue, as is the theft part of it. Yes, USPS has their own police force but MPD needs to be held accountable for keeping us safe when it comes to breaking/entering, and thefts need to be accounted for in crime stats. Without reporting this type of activity, people are doing a disservice to the rest of the community.

        Sorry you’re dealing with this, and good luck!

  • SawItAgain

    Many times in the 1400 block of Chapin NW. It gets especially bad around the holidays. We constantly try to remind everyone not to let anyone into the building if they don’t have the key fob. MPD will step up foot patrols but there is only so much they can do.

  • Officer Friendly

    Here are the magic words:

    You don’t want to take a report? Are you failing to take police action?
    What is your name and badge number?
    I am going to call 911 and call for the Watch Commander.

  • I also live in Adams Morgan–on Florida Ave near 18th Street–and we’ve definitely had packages stolen from our building. We have a locked front door–and no concierge, so we thought it was someone in the building–but there are definitely new crow bar like marks on our front door showing that someone tried to break in. Is anyone in this same area as us? We’re wondering if these may be related to the person you have on video?


Subscribe to our mailing list