Police & Fire

Scotch Plains Police Issue Tips to Avoid Holiday Thefts

Packages left on doorsteps have been stolen in the local area. Credits: John Mooney
Scotch Plains Police encourage online shoppers to track their packages, allowing them to know exactly when they will be delivered. Credits: Michael Bruchert

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – A recent series of thefts in Scotch Plains has left residents on high alert this holiday season, after packaged deliveries have been plucked from numerous doorsteps in broad daylight.

Victims believe the thieves follow delivery trucks, such as UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Amazon couriers, and scoop the parcels before the homeowner ever has a chance.

“I had four packages stolen,” Lorraine Heary Minor said. “My mailman told me he put four packages on my front porch. He also said that another customer of his also had packages stolen, moments after he delivered them. The USPS said I could write up a claim, but I did not. I chose instead to contact the stores.”

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One online store, The Grommet, did not reimburse her, since they are a small company and claimed that they couldn't afford to do so, which Minor said she understood. She did not report the thefts to the police.

“Amazon and Kohl’s were wonderful and were happy to replace my stolen items, even though they had delivery confirmation on them. They had great customer service.”

Captain Ted Conley of the Scotch Plains Police offers some suggestions on how to avoid theft this holiday season.

1. Signature - Request a signature confirmation of delivery. By doing this, the deliverer will have to wait until you're available or else deliver the package to an at-home neighbor.

2. Neighbors - Encourage trustworthy neighbors to watch for deliveries and agree to secure each other's packages. This includes being watchful for any stranger who is going onto porches or following delivery trucks. If you have an understanding boss, have your packages delivered to you at work.

3. Tracking - Track packages online to see exactly when they are en route to your house. Take advantage of couriers' text notification service letting you know when a package has been delivered. Provide special instructions for where to place the delivered packages. A good place might be on the side or back of the house so that the package is out of sight from the road.

4. Have a house watcher – If you leave home, find a close friend, relative, or trustworthy neighbor to keep an eye on your property while you're gone. This includes taking out the trash on trash day, feeding your animals, and picking up your mail and newspapers. Undone, these are all clear signs that no one is home. Keep in mind gift cards that come in the mail are easy shopping for a thief.

5. Activate your house alarm - If you have an alarm-monitored home, make sure the contact list is updated. If the alarm is activated and the house needs securing, this is the best way to aid the police in locating a responsible person to secure the home. Set your alarm if you have one, even during the daytime or if you are going to be out of the house for only a short period. Theft happens during all hours.

6. Disable your automatic garage opener - If you have a garage door with an automatic opener, disable the emergency release and lock the garage door. The emergency release is an easy way to gain access into your garage.

7. Lock the doors and windows - Lock all of your doors and windows properly every day. An unlocked entry is easily accessible.

8. Do not leave gifts under the tree - Do not leave gifts under the Christmas tree when away from home for an extended period. This makes for an easy way for a thief to grab up everything.

9. Set out trash only on trash day - Placing boxes outside creates a shopping list for a thief by simply driving by and seeing what you have inside based on the box left outside. Break down all boxes and keep them in the garage or back yard until ready for trash day.

10. Vehicle theft: Have a spare key - Leaving a running car in front of your home with the keys in the ignition makes it very easy for a thief to drive off in your toasty warm vehicle. Have a spare key to the vehicle so that you can lock it if going inside to stay warm while your vehicle warms up. This can also be done with a key fob for automatic locks. A remote start is also useful but sometimes will not work in extremely cold temperatures.

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