Special delivery turns into larceny opportunity

Elk Grove experienced a dozen break-ins on cluster mail boxes in one day

In recent months, Justin Ross has had a half-dozen packages stolen from his porch and mailbox, prompting him to set up cameras outside his Carmichael home. Ross quickly caught multiple perpetrators and sent still-shots to the police––but has yet to receive a follow-up on any of his reports.

“Who knows if [the police] even saw the reports,” Ross said. “There are tons of reports like these coming in. It’s an inconvenience, but it happens to a lot of people.”

As assumed, Ross is just one victim in what is a growing problem in the Sacramento region. Reports of mail theft in the city of Sacramento rose 23 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the city’s open data portal, provoking nearby residents like Ross and government entities to take the problem more seriously.

“I ask myself, where are our deliveries going?” Ross said. “What am I supposed to do? Do I have my stuff delivered to my parents? My neighbors, whom I know will be home?”

The U.S. Postal Service is also grappling with the dilemma. Jeff Fitch, a Postal Inspection Service spokesman, noted that in one day alone in August, there were 12 reported break-ins on cluster mailboxes in the city of Elk Grove. Fitch said such occurrences are part of an ongoing trend the agency’s been investigating.

“Within the last three years or so, we’ve seen an increase in mail and package theft in the Sacramento area, as well as the surrounding areas,” Fitch said. “But we’ve also seen it statewide.”

Fitch emphasized the importance of reporting mail and package thefts, the former being a federal crime with a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Reporting is key,” Fitch said. “The only way to curb the issue is by letting us, police and sheriff departments know.

“It’s an underreported and often overlooked offense.”

A recent survey by Shorr Packaging Corp. suggested Sacramento is a package theft hub compared to other major cities in the United States. Shorr’s survey relied on just two data points: Google search volume for “Amazon package stolen” and U.S. census estimates. By that metric, the river city ranked 10th among the 50 most populated cities for stolen package searches online.

Google searches for stolen Amazon packages were most common per capita in wealthy, technologically-friendly cities—San Francisco, Seattle and Boston—which are presumably most likely to binge-order Amazon products and turn to Google for answers when they disappear.

A 2017 survey by the company found that 31 percent of respondents had personally experienced package theft.

Thus far this year, there have been 130 mail thefts in the city of Sacramento. Package and porch thefts fall under a different classification from mail thefts, but far outnumber mail thefts in frequency.

Fitch indicated that although the city is on its way to decreasing the number of mail incidents compared to 2017, the holiday season––assumed to be the busiest time of year for mail and package thieves––has yet to arrive.