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“Recently, the area’s seen a huge increase in the number of package thefts reported”

by Prince Of Petworth — March 29, 2017 at 2:30 pm 31 Comments

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I live in the 1500 block of 5th St, NW, in Shaw. Recently, the area’s seen a huge increase in the number of package thefts reported in the Third District. In fact, on the first day that we installed a security camera, we saw someone stealing packages from our front porch (it happened on 1/5/17). We filed a police report but haven’t had any luck identifying the person responsible.

On March 16, 2017, we were struck again by package thieves – this time they were two young black men (late teens or early 20s). I’ve attached the video of this latest left in hopes of drawing attention to this disturbing trend and to hopefully identify the perpetrators. In the video it looks like one of them has a DC Water ID tag hanging from his pants’ pocket. Please let us know if you recognize these two individuals!”

  • DistrictJules

    Has this been passed along to DC Water? I live on the 1400 Block and they had a truck parked on our block for a few days a few weeks ago – perhaps a connection. Regardless, if he’s an employee they should be able to ID him.

  • JD

    This was happening in my neighborhood in Columbia Heights last Nov/Dec. After a few of my own packages went missing, I had long conversation with one of the police officers that patrols the neighborhood. Long story short, there is very little that they can do about package theft. Even with video (and even if it clearly shows a face), it’s unlikely to result in any action. To prosecute, you’d have to spend your day in court to ID the person from the video you recorded. People are unlikely to put in that much effort, and even if they do, judges in DC courts aren’t often inclined to punish for this type of crime. The officer was sympathetic to how annoying package theft is, but I appreciated the frank conversation.

    Given that assessment and that I’m not willing to simply quit having packages delivered, I’ve taken some steps to help mitigate against theft (even though I wish I didn’t have to). USPS, UPS, and FedEx all have package delivery alerts that you can sign up for; now I know better when to expect a package, and when it’s been delivered. I also have a note on my porch asking the delivery person to ring my doorbell — most do. This helps me grab the package ASAP as long as I’m home. USPS, UPS, and FedEx also allow most (but not all) packages to be redirected to a USPS/UPS/FedEx location. These steps haven’t completely solved the ‘package left on porch’ problem, and it’s definitely extra work, but it helps.

    • Michael Pierce

      So if the DC courts don’t typically hand out any sort of punishment for this type of crime, then it’s pretty much open season for stealing packages here, 24/7/365. Great.

      • JohnH

        Um I had a kid get caught in the act breaking into my house with a crowbar – and he got….probation.

    • anondad

      The police arrested a guy for stealing a package from my porch based on surveillance camera footage. He went to court and pled guilty, and I didn’t have to show up (although I would have).

      • JohnH

        Yeah..you shouldn’t have to do anything. If you provide the video and they ID them (which they have ways of doing that), then you don’t really have to do much. You can give a written statement, or go on the day in court to give an impact statement or whatever they call it.

    • Rich

      Cops often complain about the courts. that shouldn’t deter you from taking whatever action you can.

    • Anon

      Sounds like you got a long winded explanation which can be be boiled down to “I’m a lazy police officer who doesn’t want to do my job and in failng to do so, I keep crime stats down. No reported theft means no theft. So, don’t call me again.”

      • KateD

        It’s easy to blame the cops, but I’ve heard that the DA’s often decline to pursue the charges. If the DA’s won’t follow through the police likewise say it’s not worth their time.

  • KPS

    Honestly, I don’t think there will ever be a solution to this problem. This is city life. Houses facing streets where anyone walking by or driving by can just snatch something off a porch and then casually saunter off — I don’t see how a solution can be created to stop that. Last summer I house-sat in Petworth for 2 months. I didn’t have packages delivered there but the owners occasionally did even though they were away. Lucky to have a neighbor few doors down who spent a lot of time on his porch, knew everybody, and was sort of an unofficial neighborhood watch. GREAT guy. So if he happened to see a package delivered he would take it home and hold it for me (or the homeowners where they were in town). One day he told me he saw someone driving down the street, pull over, park in front of the house and casually walk up and check the lockbox to see if she could get the house key out. He yelled over to her and she skedaddled. Point of this story is — these thefts and Lookie-Lous are often simply crimes/acts of opportunity. Broad daylight doesn’t matter. The possibility that someone is home and might catch them in the act – or a neighbors catching them in the act – none of this matters. As long as things are sitting out in the open on a front porch there’s always going to be a chance of theft. And frankly, I think it’s a testament to how good most people are that ALL packages aren’t stolen.

    • ParkViewneighbor

      It’s also the impunity that does not help. City life is the catch-all excuse for lack of action from DC.
      “oh there are muggings everywhere in this neighborhood”, meh city life
      “packages are stolen”, meh city life
      “drug dealers are drinking, playing music, and swearing on my lawn all night”, meh city life

      Yeah, city life means you are exposed to these behaviors, it does not mean they have to be embraced, nurtured, and accepted as status quo

    • Anon

      Just because there is no solution does not mean you shouldn’t try to mitigate the problem. Just like vermin abatement, the rats keep coming, some seasons are worse than others, but you keep at it. Otherwise, you’ll be living in a sea of rats. Keep filming, keep calling the police, and make every effort to aid prosecution.

      • Bloomy

        +1

  • textdoc
  • bruno

    I have packages delivered to my office, thus avoiding this problem. I recommend that, if you can? But I also don’t buy too much stuff on line —- I still go to stores, which is another way to avoid this problem.

    • JoDa

      Just noting that federal employees don’t have that option, anymore. Circa 2007, in the name of “security,” we were prohibited from having personal mail delivered to our offices.
      .
      I actually prefer to shop in person for many things, but many stores don’t carry a full stock anymore. I needed new pumps recently, and did some poking around online for cute and functional shoes. I ended up narrowing it down to 3 different shoes Nordstrom carried. None were available in a store nearby. Given Nordstrom’s generous return policy, I felt confident ordering them all in my normal size to figure out which I wanted to wear in formal business settings for the next 10 years. Turned out the one that worked best ran a bit small so, while I loved it, I had to send them back and get a half size bigger than I originally ordered. I was only able to do that kind of shopping because I live in a building where we can buzz in delivery people (so packages aren’t left out in “public”) and I could return ill-fitting shoes by just dropping them at a UPS pickup (for me, a UPS store down the street from my office).
      .
      A great to ideal fit is *really* important when you’re on 2″+ stilts. Most of the highest-quality shoes I could find anywhere were only available online.

  • John

    I live 10 blocks west and it’s a big problem here too. Luckily my place has a vestibule which non-bulky packages can fit inside of.

    If I’m expecting something bigger then once I get the UPS/FedEx shipping number, I try to have packages re-directed to a FedEx or UPS store.

  • Truxtoner

    I will never, ever understand people who live in DC who have packages delivered to their homes. I’m amazed on message boards how often the very same people report repeated thefts of packages. How many times does it have to happen before you learn not to have packages delivered to your house?

    If it isn’t nailed down, it’s getting taken. Period. I wish it weren’t that way, but it is.

    • anoNE

      Only caveat I have for this is that no matter how many times I tell family and friends to ship anything of value to my work, around the holidays/birthdays/etc. someone will still send something to my home street address. While you have control over what you order and to where, you can’t always control who sends you something. And in those situations, you don’t even know to be looking for it. I’ve set up USPS, UPS, FedEx accounts and attempt to reroute to a pickup location or at least carefully track deliveries, but even that doesn’t work 100% of the time.

      • JohnH

        I have delivery instructions saved with UPS and FedEx to leave packages on my back deck which is easily accessible. FedEx has literally followed these saved instructions 0% of the time. UPS is about 95%.

        • amber

          FedEx is the worst.

    • bruno

      Where were you a few weeks ago when I was the lone voice with this POV?!?! :^)

  • soulshadow55

    I’m sorry that this happened to you. It’s a new type of crime that never happened when I was a kid. Call me naïve I can’t for the life of me understand why folks steal other people’s packages. My rowhouse has about 12 stairs up from the street to the front door. It also has a 3 foot high brick pony wall to the right of the door. Most of the time the Mail Man will place our packages behind the wall so that they can’t be seen from the street. But we have had a few things stolen when they just place them out in the open. But I’m also lucky because I can get packages delivered to my office. I you can catch your Mail Man when he’s delivering the mail ask him if he would kindly put the packages over behind your wall where they can’t be seen from the street. It won’t completely solve the problem but what folk’s can see they won’t steal. Wish there was a better way for the folks who don’t have that option.

    • MadMax

      The mindset of these perps is framed by the constant preaching from their elders about the evil gentrifiers moving into their neighborhoods and forcing them out, even though the people they’re stealing from are just innocent home buyers, or even more unfortunate people of their own community they want to protect. These kids just have no respect for anyone, especially people they see as outsiders.

  • 16thStliving

    We had a package thief caught on camera. He was foolish enough to be wearing a FedEx uninform (and stealing a UPS package). He was identified, arrested, and the packages returned within 24 hours. In our case, the fact that he was in uniform helped quite a bit with narrowing down the suspects. But the DC detective assigned to this took it very seriously. We were impressed. (And my husband gloated for days since I told him he was wasting his time since DC cops wouldn’t bother investigating.)

  • Felony I

    I have a mailbox at the UPS Store. Despite working from home, I send all packages there – they sign for everything including local couriers. I pay about $35 per month and it is completely worth it, especially since I get work deliveries there too. The only thing that gets delivered to the house is Chewy. Those boxes are clearly marked “Chewy, where pet lovers shop.” If a thief wants to haul off 40 lbs of cat litter, then go for it.

    • JoDa

      When I lived in a condo that delivery people couldn’t get into the lobby of (so packages would have to be left outside on the stoop), I had a box containing 70 lbs of dog food and marked with the logo of a similar pet supply company disappear. I also, recently, had Lazership leave a package outside my front door because I was in the shower when they rang, and 10 minutes later when I ran outside to retrieve the package, I found the empty boxes dumped on the street and my dog shampoo and a $10 skirt for me gone (I did go check the nearby street trash cans, thinking the thieves might have dumped such “low value” items close by)… Apparently, some package thieves do “go for it.”

      • Newtonian

        Lasership is consistently the worst carrier. In my current and former building, they don’t bother to ring for access and will leave packages a step above the sidewalk on a busy street. I’m fortunate my few packages (diapers, yay!) weren’t stolen. Their customer service is non-existent, and complaining to companies that do business with them has yielded mixed results. Amazon still uses their services and will not upgrade to only USPS/UPS shipping even with a Prime membership, for example.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Agreed. I think I’ve only had one package actually stolen ever (I live way up north in a lower-density neighborhood; my front door is nearly 50 feet from the road), but LoserShip has delivered my stuff to *the wrong house* several times. Once to the other side of my duplex, twice to other houses on the same block but several houses away, and once to the same house number as mine but on the next street down.

  • Tom

    I’m lucky enough to be able to use my office address for personal mail. Housemate’s a fed and orders almost everything online; after two package thefts (one was contact lenses, of all things) he got a UPS locker or one of the things textdoc linked to in an earlier comment on this thread. He’s been loving it.

  • Ted

    I don’t know why the police and citizens just give up stopping crimes like package theft or breaking into vehicles. You are basically giving criminals the ability to work with no cost or consequences. I know it is difficult, but there are things the police could do. Look at San Francisco, they had a huge problem with bike theft. Search for “San Francisco’s Bait Bike Campaign”. They dropped baited bikes around the city, caught thieves in the act and aggressively advertised the campaign. It WORKED. You make thieves think twice about snatching a package or breaking into a car. Yes, urban crime might always be a thing, but it is ridiculous to imagine that there is nothing we can do to help stop it.

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