By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A thief or group of unaffiliated thieves are trying a new tack this Christmas, stealing some of the joy of the holiday season right off the porches of local homes.
Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks reported this week that at least four reports have been filed since December 13 by residents who ordered merchandise, had it delivered to their homes, then had it stolen before they got home to secure the packages.
“The first report we have is on December 13, in the 100-block of Highland Avenue, where items that were left on the front porch by a delivery company were never received by the people who ordered them,” Brooks said. “The same thing happened December 14 in the 600-block of South Carney Street; on December 16 in the 200-block of Liberty Street, and from a Stokely Court residence on December 17. Packages were delivered to each place and were stolen off the porches.”
Another such theft reportedly occurred on Marshall Avenue, but Brooks was unable to find a report on that incident. In that case, the resident saw the packages being delivered, but they were gone when she got to the front door to get them.
“You see it all around this time of year,” the police chief said. “More and more, people are shopping online and having merchandise shipped to them, and that makes them an easy target.”
Asked if the thief or thieves might be following Postal Service, FedEx, UPS or other delivery companies trucks and vans, Brooks said, “Probably; you see that online all the time now.”
Police do have a slim lead on at least one of the thefts.
“We have video footage from one of the cases that shows a black male wearing a hoodie, with his face and most everything else covered up,” said Brooks. “We know it’s a male, and we’re trying to identify him.”
He advised residents to take simple precautions to help stem the tide of holiday thefts.
“If you see something or somebody suspicious, call us and report it,” he said. “Try to get the direction of travel the person went, a good clothing description and information like that. If it’s somebody who’s not usually in your neighborhood, call us and let us check it out.”
He offered another suggestion that could help eliminate or significantly lower the odds of being the next victim of the holiday thief or thieves.
“This time of year, if you can have your packages delivered to another house where somebody is home most of the time, that could help,” he said. “We can’t be on every street in the city at the same time, so people need to let us know when something or someone looks suspicious to them.”
Brooks also reminded residents and visitors to the city to make sure the doors and windows of their respective vehicles are locked when the drivers are shopping at local stores or eating at local restaurants.
“We have that problem every year, too,” he said. “Thieves look for unlocked vehicles, break into them when the owner goes inside to shop, especially at large stores, and take anything of value. People need to be aware of that.”