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Package theft continues after Christmas, Citrus Heights police offer tips

A package thief was caught on video nabbing a box of late Christmas gifts for a toddler that arrived on a doorstep in a Citrus Heights neighborhood this week.

The woman who reported the theft, who preferred her name not be published, released surveillance video of the incident — appearing to show a man in baggy blue jeans and a white t-shirt approach a home on Coral Oak Way on Dec. 29, grab a package, and walk quickly to a waiting vehicle at the street.

Police Sgt. Jason Baldwin said the video shows typical evidence of how package thieves operate, and what residents should be on the lookout for: someone looking around apprehensively, rapidly walking up to the doorstep and back, and having a waiting getaway vehicle.

He said package thieves will typically go in pairs, with one driving and one walking, and will “not have the appearance of a professional delivery person.” He added that around the holiday gift season, delivery services are known to hire independent contractors who may not wear a uniform or drive a marked vehicle, so lack of a uniform “doesn’t always mean they’re a thief.”

The sergeant said the incident on Coral Oak Way is one of 10 package thefts reported in December this year, up from seven last December. He said the actual number of thefts could be higher, depending on whether people reported the theft, or if they even knew a gift was supposed to arrive but didn’t.

Citing a high-profile local arrest of a package thief in 2015, Baldwin said video surveillance has given officers “pretty good success” at nabbing package thieves, and he’s optimistic that surveillance from the latest incident will also lead to an arrest.

“We might get a hit off this from the general public,” he said, commenting that the video quality is better than other footage he’s reviewed.

He described the suspect in the video as a white male adult with short brown hair, wearing baggy blue jeans, a dark colored windbreaker style coat, and a white t-shirt. The sergeant said the vehicle involved appeared to be a Toyota minivan or sedan, either metallic light blue or gray in color.

Prevention tips
Asked for tips to avoid becoming a victim, the sergeant said options like Amazon Locker are good choices, or arranging to be home on the day a package is supposed to arrive.

He also recommended surveillance cameras and said posting notices that state the property is under video and audio surveillance are “a pretty good deterrent.”

Baldwin said staying on top of tracking is also a key way to identify if a package was potentially stolen early on. If tracking notifications list the package as having arrived, but it wasn’t ever received, Baldwin said residents should contact the company the item was ordered from before contacting police.

“Just because somebody said they’re missing a package that was supposed to be there, doesn’t mean it was stolen,” said Baldwin. “[In those cases,] we can’t take a report that the package was stolen, but where we can certainly take the report is if it’s verifiable: a neighbor saw it, or it was caught on surveillance.”

Surveillance footage is particularly helpful to police in identifying package thieves, as Baldwin said the video or still images will typically be sent out to officers in the department and neighboring agencies for positive identification of the suspect.

Surveillance can also be released by police to enlist the help of the general public, which is how a package thief in the city was caught by police last year.

As final advice, Baldwin advised neighbors to look out for eachother and take down descriptions and license plates of suspicious persons walking up to porches. “Be a good neighbor; stay alert.”

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