Is Your House a Target for Holiday Crime?

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Photo: Dallas Police This porch thief last year was caught thanks to security cameras.
Photo: Dallas Police
This porch thief last year was caught thanks to security cameras.

Noelle Dixon is already down a couple of gifts thanks to package thieves that hit her Lakewood-area home last night and absconded with a shirt for her and a shirt for her daughter. Last year, thieves hit several locations, including homes in Midway Hollow, where two thieves were caught after they tried to pawn the items they stole.

“It happened tonight around 8:30 p.m.,” she told me last night. “We are filing a police report and posting a sign for all deliveries to ring the doorbell.”

And that’s a good idea, according to most every expert I’ve asked this week.  For instance, University Park’s Crime Prevention Officer Lita Snellgrove said that while they have not had any reports of package thefts so far, “many cities are already having problems.” An ounce of prevention, Snellgrove explained, can really lessen your chances of having those holiday gifts stolen off your porch.

When ordering online,” she said, “pick up your packages at the distribution center or post office. Many people will have their packages delivered to their work address. If the package is delivered to your home, track the package so you know exactly when it is delivered and have a neighbor pick it up for you.”

“They can also choose to have things sent to a relative or neighbor who is home during the day,” Dan Cardillo with UPS said, adding that homeowners can even do additional things with packages shipped through UPS. “They can tell our driver where they would like packages left, for example, in the shed in the back yard, or behind the garage, etc. UPS drivers can enter that information into their handheld computers for future deliveries.”

Cardillo also suggested that homeowners sign up for the UPS service UPS MY Choice, which allows users to redirect packages to other locations, arrange for packages to require a signature, or even ask for them to be held at a UPS facility for pickup.

FedEx Delivery Manager gives customers more power to customize home deliveries to fit their schedules,” Rae Lyn with FedEx explained. If you’re out of town, “you can request a vacation hold on all shipments for up to 14 days,” she added.

Lyn explained that with their Delivery Manager, “you can leave instructions for drivers to always ring your doorbell or knock on your door when a package is being left.” You can also use the manager tool to tell the driver to leave it in a certain spot, and leave one-time or permanent directions on package placement. The tool also allows homeowners to schedule deliveries for times that they will be home, or even redirect the package (even if it’s already on its way) to a more secure location like a FedEx facility or a neighbor’s house.

My Midway Hollow neighbors also said they take steps to avoid package thefts after last year’s rash of them. “During the holidays I have everything delivered to my office,” Diana Doss said. “I haven’t had anything taken, but don’t like to take chances.”

Kevin Byrd said that after having packages stolen off his porch last year, “Now we get deliveries at my office.” “My family and I check our online “package trackers” frequently on the USPS and UPS websites,” Marilyn Hernandez said. “They are usually pretty reliable and we ensure to get the packages off of our porches as soon as we see that they are delivered! Sometimes you pay a little extra to get the notification in your email or text that the package has been delivered, but it is definitely worth it in the holiday season!”

But packages on porches aren’t the only places holiday crimes can take place. The Dallas Police Department has a pamphlet outlining great ways to avoid being a victim, including making sure those post-holiday boxes that held new electronics and expensive items are broken down before being placed in the trash.

“Burglars appreciate knowing that you have expensive gifts inside for them to steal,” the DPD says. “Break boxes down or cut them up to conceal the items better.”

To avoid break-ins that allow thieves to Christmas shop in your home, Snellgrove stresses, “Always when leaving your home turn on your alarm. Thieves look for easy targets and will look for homes without alarm systems to break into.”

And when you’re out shopping (or coming home from a shopping trip), be careful and aware, Snellgrove said. “Yes, be aware of your surroundings when walking to your vehicle. Don’t talk on the phone, you will be distracted. Lock your door when you get into your vehicle.”

“Avoid doing all your shopping at once,” Dallas police recommend. “The tendency would be to have a car
full of gifts which increases your chances of your car being broken into. Don’t leave packages visible in your car. Place all valuables in the trunk of your vehicle. Don’t give thieves a reason to break into your car.”

And those new presents? Snellgrove says to protect them, too. “Remember to record all serial numbers on new Christmas presents like bicycles, televisions, cameras and gaming systems,” she said. “It helps the police to find them if sold to a pawn shop.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson lives in a 1961 Fox and Jacobs home with her husband, a second-grader, and Conrad Bain the dog. If she won the lottery, she'd by an E. Faye Jones home. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Online News Association, the Education Writers Association, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She doesn't like lima beans or the word moist.

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