Combatting package thefts throughout Drexel’s campus area ahead of holiday season | The Triangle

Combatting package thefts throughout Drexel’s campus area ahead of holiday season

Photograph courtesy of Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images.

With the holidays fast approaching, residents in areas near Drexel’s campus — and throughout Philadelphia — should consider their plans for receiving package deliveries so as to not become victim to theft, according to Drexel University’s police department.

According to Drexel Police’s community relations officers Kim McClay and Thomas Cirone, package thefts are an “ongoing issue,” but will likely increase as residents around Drexel’s campus begin to make more online purchases ahead of the holiday season.

As a preventative measure, Drexel Police has collaborated with Philadelphia Police Department’s 16th District to distribute over 500 flyers to residents within the Department of Public Safety’s patrol area, which extends between 30th and 36th streets and Chestnut and Spring Garden streets.

“Many residents have even [read the flyers] and said, ‘this has already happened to me,’” Cirone said.

Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are purchasing gifts online through Amazon, eBay and other stores, which equates to more packages to steal, McClay said. Drexel Police has committed many of its resources to combat package thefts throughout Drexel’s campus and the surrounding areas, including dispatching plainclothes officers.

In addition to patrolling the streets undercover, Drexel Police works with Penn Police, PPD’s 16th District and other ambassadors to monitor the area. Through these heightened efforts, Drexel Police has brought several cases of theft to justice and identified several safety steps residents should follow.

Flyer courtesy of Drexel Police and Philadelphia Police Department’s 16th District.

Many residents post notes on their front doors instructing delivery drivers where to leave packages, McClay and Cirone said. While this might seem logical at first, it is a true roadmap for thieves looking to steal packages. A better alternative is to share drop-off instructions with delivery drivers through the online platform. Outlets like Amazon allow users the option to securely provide specific delivery instructions. Drexel Police also encourages consumers to select the option to require a signature upon delivery, if possible.

A common practice of package thieves, according to McClay and Cirone, is to drive behind the delivery truck and steal packages as soon as they are placed on porches. The department has even seen cases where thieves board the delivery truck, itself, and take packages directly before they’re even dropped off.

These perpetrators act quickly, McClay and Cirone said, and want to “separate themselves from the packaging as quickly as possible,” as to get rid of the label with the purchaser’s identity. One of the most effective measures to protect against package theft is to take advantage of technology.

Front porch cameras, like the Ring Doorbell, can be installed and provide real-time footage that can be used as evidence in the event of package theft. In addition, Drexel Police encourages residents in its patrol area to take advantage of apps like Neighbors by Ring, which allows neighbors to communicate and share data about package deliveries and suspicions of theft, Cirone said.

If installing a camera is not an option, McClay and Cirone suggest utilizing an alternate place for package delivery. Outlets like Amazon have free delivery lockers, including at 7-11 on 34th Street on Drexel’s campus. Additionally, many companies offer free in-store delivery, which consumers can utilize and pick up their packages from the store.

The app Citizen is also a free-to-download program that is linked to the Philadelphia Police Department. Residents can download the Citizen app and sign up for updates based on neighborhood.

“[The Citizen app gives many] in-progress notifications, which let you know what is going on so you stay away from the area,” Cirone said. These notifications, which inform residents about issues quickly, can help mitigate in-the-moment package thefts.

However, McClay and Cirone say that the best way to combat package thefts is to get to know your neighbors. Coordinating a plan and designating a person to collect packages upon delivery is the best protection against theft.

And, of course, residents within Drexel Police’s patrol area, including those who are not affiliated with Drexel, are encouraged to reach out with any reports of package thefts or suspicious activity, Cirone said. Drexel Police is the most direct point of contact for this area.

Contacting Drexel Police after a package theft is perfectly warranted, McClay and Cirone said. In fact, it is welcomed.

“Do not hesitate,” Cirone said. “A lot of times, after the fact, victims say ‘I knew something was going on, and I should have called.’”

Drexel Police can be reached 24/7 at (215) 895-2222. Alternatively, the department can be reached through the Guardian app, anonymously if desired, which serves as a real-time communication platform equivalent to a phone call.

“Please contact us even without [hard] evidence,” McClay said. “We want to know what is going on in our area.”