Package thefts increase during holiday season

Alachua County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Courtenay Thomas
Alachua County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Courtenay Thomas

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – During the holiday season, more people are skipping out on the stores and buying their gifts online. It can be so easy to get them shipped to the doorstep, but it's also making an easy target for thieves.

Gainesville police are investigating after nearly 20 packages were stolen from doorsteps, and one woman has been arrested, accused of some of the thefts.

"If it comes late, I am wondering did somebody get it already? You kind of worry a little bit," said James Faison, who orders packages online.

Faison, a photographer, always thinks twice when he orders new gear online. He does what he can so it doesn't get snatched by someone else.

"If it is a valuable piece, I want somebody to sign for it," he said.

This time of year, police say they see an uptick in package thefts.

"We commonly, in our jurisdictions, have this problem around the holiday time," said Officer Ben Tobias, of the Gainesville Police Department.

On Thursday, police arrested 30-year-old Courtenay Thomas. They're still looking for her boyfriend.

Alachua County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Courtenay Thomas
Alachua County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Courtenay Thomas

"She gave us consent to search her home, and inside we found about 20 different packages," Tobias said. "None of them were addressed to her, and they appear to have been taken from peoples' doorsteps."

Delivery companies are aware of the problems. The crimes, some caught on surveillance cameras, happen all over.

"Before you ship something or have something shipped, think about the circumstances surrounding the delivery," FedEx spokeswoman Connie Avery said. "So if you know that you may or may not be home, ship it to an alternate location, require a signature."

To help out, FedEx offers a free shipping manager online where customers can tell the driver when and where to leave their shipment. UPS and the U.S. Postal Service have similar options.

"Maybe you want to have them not deliver it unless someone signs for it, that way it is not being left at home," News4Jax crime analyst Gil Smith said.

Smith also suggests having the company deliver to packages to customers' workplace, a trusty neighbor's house if they're home, or at least have a good place to hide it.

"It's a crime of opportunity, and if they see it, they are going to go for it," Smith said. "If it's not there, they are going on to the next house."

Delivery companies say if customers think someone stole their package, let police know. After that, customers can contact the company and ask about their options. Many will replace the missing items.

According to UPS, if customers have concerns about the security of their deliveries, they have options:

  • They can have the shipment sent to where they are -- not where they aren't. In other words, if they are at work during the day they can have packages delivered to where they work. They can also choose to have things sent to a relative or neighbor who is home during the day.
  • They can tell the UPS driver where they would like packages left; for example, in the shed in the back yard, or behind the garage, etc. Drivers can enter that information into their handheld computers for future deliveries.
  • They can sign up for a free service called UPS My Choice, which sends a proactive email alert to the customer letting them know when their package is going to be delivered.

As far as what to do if a shipment is stolen, UPS will instruct the individual to file a police report. The customer may also wish to call the shipper to get a replacement item shipped.

For FedEx package security tips, go to its website.