The Crime: Burglary
The Victim: Tracy Gemas
Location: Sondra Drive near Lakewood Elementary
Date: Saturday, Nov. 10
Time: Noon

So much for “secure” online shopping.

As the holiday season approaches, many people will do their Christmas shopping online because it’s convenient and because online stores such as Amazon are good at keeping credit card information out of the hands of computer-savvy thieves.

But perhaps less thought is given to keeping those securely made online purchases safe as they’re dropped off. If someone wanted to follow a delivery truck around, for example, and snatch up packages left on doorsteps, not much could be done to stop them.

Such was the trouble that struck Sondra Drive a few weeks ago, when, one afternoon, packages started disappearing from doorsteps up and down the residential road.

“I heard the deliveryman ring the doorbell, but I was folding laundry, so I came down a minute later,” says Tracy Gemas. “I opened the door, and there was this guy, just strolling away from my doorstep holding a package. I yelled for him to stop, but he just jumped in his Chevy. It was very ballsy.”

Lt. Michael Woodberry says this sort of theft is uncommon, though he admits that “it’s a pretty easy scam, if you think about it.”

“To a certain point, there’s really nothing you can do,” Woodberry says. “If someone decides to follow a delivery truck, all you can hope is the driver makes sure someone signs for the packages. Otherwise, they’re pretty much in the open.”

Gemas thought a mail-ordered pillow was all the thief managed to skedaddle with until she received a phone call from her bank asking if she’d charged $1,000 at Target. Turned out that she was also the victim of identity theft. Jemas’ debit card had been swiped from her mailbox, and her checking account was lighter by about $5,700 before the crime was discovered.

To help prevent identity theft, Woodberry suggests shredding all financial documents before throwing them away, because some people root through garbage, and keeping a close watch on bank statements for signs of fraud.

“But in terms of keeping them from taking letters from your mailbox, it’s about as tricky as the packages on your doorstep,” Woodberry says. “There’s only so much you can do.”

Gemas’ solution is to have all of her packages and important documents delivered to her husband’s office from now on.

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