The crime spree at the front door

I have an Amazon package due to be delivered today when I’m not home and the odds are increasing that someone will swipe it before I get to it.

If that’s the case, well, maybe you need wheel bearing grease at this time of the year more than I do, thief. Bless you.

It’s only a matter of time before the easy pickings on the doorstep lead to someone getting killed, and there’s a chance it’ll be someone who wasn’t on the doorstep to steal the package.

This week in Woodbury, for example, someone posted a picture of a small, red car that was seen opening mailboxes. A day later, someone else posted a picture of a small, red car “acting suspicious” (it was a Lyft driver). The person called the cops. Fortunately, she reported on the neighborhood forum, the cops were too busy to start pulling innocent drivers over for making the decision to buy a small, red car.

By last night, all the posts were deleted.

If you see this burnt orange Ford Focus (note the black rims) driving slowly/suspiciously in your Woodbury neighborhood,…

Posted by Woodbury, MN Police Fire EMS on Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sure, there’s a reason to whip neighbors into a frenzy — people are stealing our stuff. But it seems obvious that even a well-intentioned angry mob threaten the innocent.

So it was good to see Pioneer Press reporter Mara Gottfried’s story today about the St. Paul police running sting operations by placing Amazon “bait boxes” with a GPS inside to try to nab thieves, or at least give them something to think about.

“We want would-be thieves to know we have the technology and maybe they’ll think twice before stealing someone’s package off their front step,” said Steve Linders, a St. Paul police spokesperson.

A St. Paul police investigator said he saw almost no reports of package thefts through October. Since then, there’ve been two or three a day.

But here’s the part of the story neighborhoods need to pay attention to:

Police say home-security systems with doorbell cameras are great for capturing photos of thieves, but they caution against people taking matters into their own hands. Though it can be tempting to booby-trap a box, for example, you might be the one who ends up in trouble if the thief is injured, police say.

It’s only a matter of time.

  • emersonpie

    Next time you get an Amazon box, open from the bottom – carefully – and use it to pack up some garbage. Tape it back together and leave it on your doorstep.

    • Rob

      …which will probably result in the thief returning to your porch with the package of garbage and dumping it all over – or doing something even worse. But bonus points to you for trying to think outside the box.

      • Al


    • Jerry

      Garbage? I was thinking some special gifts from the dogs.

      • jon

        Remember back in the day when you put a bag of dog poop on OTHER peoples steps (and set it on fire) rather than the days when you put a box of poop on your own steps…

        it’s weird what parts of the “good ol’ days” we are left pining for…

        p.s. do you have prince albert in a can?

        • Jerry

          I did, but it was in the fridge, which ran off.

  • Rob

    Our mileage differs as to what constitutes a crime spree. In a city the size of St. Paul, two or three reported porch package thefts a day during the holiday season ain’t my idea of a spree.

    • If you read the story, you’ll see that it’s 1 in 12 Americans getting stuff stolen from the front door.

      You’re out “grumping” even me. That’s something.

      • Rob

        Grumpy Old Men!

        Regarding the 1 in 12 stat, as my dear sainted mother used to say, “If you don’t want packages stolen from your porch, make alternative delivery arrangements.”

        • The “serves ’em right” response?

          • Rob

            More like the “it can’t be stolen from your porch if it isn’t there in the first place” response.

          • Kassie

            And you can’t be raped if you aren’t in the bar, right?

            Victim blaming is victim blaming if you are talking about theft or rape.

          • Rob

            No victim blaming. If you want to run the risk of having an inanimate object stolen off your porch, feel free. I won’t blame you at all.

          • Jerry

            Yeah, that’s the definition of blaming. You’re saying it’s your fault for having something done to you.

          • Rob

            Just said I wasn’t faulting anyone. But if blaming and not blaming mean the same thing, you are correct, sir.

        • Jim in RF

          The 1:12 stat isn’t very believable, even if they stretch it to the timespan of ever-in-my-life instead of recently. It was based off a survey from an insurance lead service with who knows what rigor. It’s a big number for sure, but not 12%.

          • Rob

            Thank you!

          • Joe

            1:12 is 8%, not 12%.

  • Barton

    My sister has switched to have her deliveries made at her office instead of at home. She lives in the middle of nowhere but packages still went missing (I blame the fact that delivery persons would leave the package at the top of the drive on a busy road and not at her actual mailbox or house. This seems to be working (she works in an office without a mail room – deliveries are made to the receptionist).

    My parents have their packages sent to me in Minneapolis versus their home in the southern suburbs. This is because I have a brick front porch, so packages are not obvious unless you come right up to the porch itself. That said, recently the delivery people have been putting packages in the middle of the steps instead of off to the side and hidden (and they did before the holiday season picked up).

    • Likewise.

      Also, you have it delivered to the nearest Whole Foods and pick it up there.

      Amazon “lockers” also seems like an appropriate solution.

      I suppose it’s too much like going to the store, though.

      • Kassie

        That last sentence is true for me. A lot of what I buy from Amazon I do it so I don’t have to go to a store. As soon as I have to walk into a Whole Foods, then I should of just went to another store. Sometimes I could even purchase the product at a Whole Foods.

        • Barton

          I’ve been taking advantage of the Prime Now function to get stuff from Whole Foods delivered to my house while I’m there (w/in a two hour window). So, I wonder if we can then have them also grab that Amazon package they are holding on to…..

          • Kassie

            My last Prime Now delivery was a disaster. As I waited for groceries to make dinner, getting really hungry, my kombucha exploded on the poor delivery driver, soaking all the groceries, so they didn’t deliver them. We had no dinner and no kombucha!

      • Jack Ungerleider

        There’s a set of lockers at the Cub Foods on University and Pascal. (They go by the name Vlad.) Anything ordered that can be delivered to Vlad is delivered to Vlad.

    • Mike Worcester

      At a former residence, I used to have a P.O. box. That was nice, but I understand it’s not an available option for many people.

      • Barton

        My sister tried the PO Box, but the post office in her (very) small town isn’t open on the weekends and only from 9 ’til 4pm during the week. Getting their packages/mail was a nightmare (you couldn’t even get into the area where the boxes were outside of post office hours).

    • bpost

      And then there is the situation at a local municipality that I know of–the Police Department has put out advisories that if at all possible, please have deliveries made to the workplace, not one’s home. Yet, the HR department for the same entity states that no personal mail can be delivered to the workplace. So the PD can’t follow their own advice.

      • Guest

        Consistency and government is just fun to watch 🙂

    • Jerry

      When I lived in St Paul next to a bus stop with no front porch, I used to get my deliveries sent to my parents house in the country because they had one of those big rural mailboxes. Now I have a front porch, and a street nobody dares to park on, so I feel safer having them delivered at home.

  • jon

    The amount of paranoia I see on those “community forums” is outrageous…

    The worst was a woman who called the cops on a black man who talked to a child she had brought to the park… because he wasn’t wearing pants (after some questioning it turns out he was wearing shorts… in the summertime… but she got a bad vibe from him and the police didn’t find him afterwards so you know he must have been up to no good… *sigh*)

    Most recently reports of a vehicle acting suspicious turned out to be the folks who deliver the local news paper…

    And of course the report of a vehicle following some one out of a gas station parking lot and then trying to flag her down… of course she didn’t stop because they were trying to sex traffic her! (the “guilty” party came forward after asking what kind of car she drove (information she provided readily) to tell her that she left her gas tank open and they were trying to tell her that.)

    Any how, I’ve had no issues with packages going missing from my steps… busy street, lots of traffic that might see some one (none that would make note of it much less report something)

    I got a part to fix the furnace delivered yesterday (it went out on saturday) and I was very concerned that might go missing… (so tired of 50 degree bathroom in the morning.)

    • Rob

      //50 degree bathroom in the morning//
      My guess is that it isn’t the room temperature itself that’s the issue, it’s what that temerature does to certain bathroom surfaces.

      • John

        I don’t know. 50 degree air getting out of the shower is pretty brutal.

        • Rob

          : )

    • Erik Petersen

      Yes, the shared sex trafficking warnings are a scourge

      • BJ

        You know Iowa had 10,000 missing persons last week main stream media will not tell you this. /s

        • Erik Petersen

          I could see that being literally true counting runaways and deprivation of parental rights situations, etc.

          See, there’s a difference….

          I still maintain these Facebook sex trafficking abduction warnings that are shared are absurdly paranoid generally.

          • BJ

            TOP DEFINITION
            Indicates the presence of sarcasm.

    • Jared

      Ugh, I had a nextdoor account for maybe two days, heard about it and thought I’d love to help if someone’s pet runs away. The last straw was a heavily commented thread about a black teenager hiding a bike in the bushes near a light rail station multiple days in a row. Clearly a drug dealer (one of the many at every blue line station apparently) and not someone taking the train to work/school/a friends who doesn’t have a bike lock. Those places a toxic.

      • Jerry

        Nextdoor: The Home Of Your Casual Neighborhood Racists.

        • The Resistance

          It’s hits and misses, like anything. I found a great electrician that did our recessed lights through Nextdoor.

          • lusophone

            Agreed. You have to be willing and able to filter through all the crap to get to anything useful. Not much is free in life.

      • RBHolb

        I think I read that post. I tried to call out the obvious racism, and had a lot of angry responses claiming that race had nothing to do with it, but they naturally assumed drug dealer when they heard someone riding a bike in the same direction every day while carrying a bag. The “black” description had nothing to do with it.

        • jon

          People won’t see their own basis…
          they are intentionally blind to it… Even when it’s pointed out.

          If you ever find a foolproof way to convince some one that they have an unconscious basis (some one who feels strongly that they don’t) I’d love to hear about it.

        • Jared

          Yup, that sounds right. Forgot a bag was involved!! That was the most damning evidence of all.

          Saw the responses to people like you calling everyone out and deleted my account. This blog and specific parts of reddit are the closest things to social media in my life and I’m fine with that.

      • Jim E

        @bestofnextdoor can be pretty entertaining.

  • Gary F

    We don’t buy much from Amazon at our house. But we did recently, and its getting re-filled with used cat litter and put back on our front steps.

    • The Resistance

      I get where you’re going, but It’ll probably just get tossed in an alley as garbage. We found two discarded Amazon packages in our alley last year. Neither were valuable/resellable items.The thief just opened the top with a boxcutter in his/her car and chucked the rejected goods into our alley. On a happier note, the packaging with address was nearby so we were able to reunite some guinea pig bedding and food with the intended rodent owners.

  • Jay Sieling

    Silly me! When I read this headline late last night “Sting uses fake Amazon boxes, GPS to catch would-be thieves” I thought – wow, that Sting, he sure is clever! Then I imagined a new cover of “Roxanne” “you don’t have to put out a package – those days are over now” (must be finals / grading stress)

    • Jerry

      Everybody knows Sting no longer works with The Police.

      (h/t to Chris Steller for inspiring these)

    • jon

      Where is weird al when you need him for an emergency cover…

      • QuietBlue

        “Message in a Prime box…”

        • Jerry

          How has nobody made a “every package you take..” joke?

          • Rob

            “Every box you take…”

  • Jeffrey

    If only there were some way to buy things without having a package delivered.

    • RBHolb

      There is, but you have to rely on the brick-and-mortar retailers carrying it. A lot of us use old technology that may not have parts available locally, or easily found locally (Target does not carry film in its stores).

      I will say that the only thing we buy regularly online are dog-walking bags.

  • The Resistance

    Most of the delivery companies have options through which you can customize your deliveries. Through FedEx it’s called ‘delivery manager’. It allows you to specify if you want the package left on your back stoop, delayed delivery, etc.

    • jwest8

      Amazon has lock boxes at a number of retailers; FedEx has Walgreens for drop off and pickup with ID and Signature required; UPS has options too.
      My closest Walgreens is less than two miles from my house and I go right by it on my way home. I couldn’t be easier or more secure.

  • AL287

    The delivery contract Amazon has with the U.S. Postal Service has eliminated some of the theft but likely not all of it.

    Many of the companies I shop with online use a hybrid delivery service and FedEx and UPS both have them. UPS has SurePost and FedEx has SmartPost. These delivery types are usually used for standard delivery (7-10 days). The Post Office handles the last local leg of the delivery.

    If the package is too large to fit in your regular mailbox, it goes back to the post office and you take the delivery attempt slip to the post office and pick it up.

    I’m sure you can check with the customer service department of your favorite vendor and find out which type they use.

    The moral of the story— with all the options for online shopping there is no excuse for procrastinating about your Christmas shopping. If you wait til the last minute and do express delivery, all bets are off.

  • Ben Chorn

    When I eventually get a house I plan to have some kind of chest outside with a lock on it. It would be unlocked with a note for delivery people to put package inside and lock it.

  • boB from WA

    The local law informants folks out here on the Left Coast are using stings as well to catch would be thieves. One person caught turned out to be an Amazon delivery driver!

  • JamieHX

    I found on my front step today a package that looks a lot like the box in the picture. It’s addressed to me at my address, but has no information about where it comes from. It looks very Amazon-ish, but there’s no return address to Amazon or anywhere else, and the box and decorative tape don’t say anything about It has something fairly lightweight in it that bounces around inside when I shake it. I was afraid to open it, so I just set it inside the door and planned to deal with it later. I’ve thought about taking it to a police station to have them x-ray it, but I don’t know. If it’s one of the boxes described in this story, I would feel pretty resentful about their putting my name and address on it.

    • The police won’t leave boxes without the home owner’s permission

      • JamieHX

        Ok, thanks. I did spot one Amazon “smile” on the box that I hadn’t seen before. Haven’t had a chance to open it yet.

  • joetron2030

    A hero for our times. Includes YouTube video of justice being served multiple times.

    “NASA engineer creates glitter bomb package to thwart parcel thieves (And there’s fart spray involved, too.)”