Suspicious minds: Gift larceny low, but other thefts are afoot

Albemarle police are ready to stake out porch pirate Grinches.
ACPD Albemarle police are ready to stake out porch pirate Grinches. ACPD

As if we didn’t have actual problems to worry about, national news has been filled with stories of porch pirates stealing gift-laden packages. But for those worried that their Amazon deliveries will be snatched by the end of the work day, rest assured: So far this holiday season in Albemarle County, only two missing packages have been reported, says Jenny Zawitz, crime analyst for Albemarle County police.

Of course, the number could rise because that was as of December 14, Zawitz points out.

Charlottesville has more purloined packages, with eight reported since November 1, says Detective Sergeant Tony Newberry. “These are pretty common larcenies.”

But Albemarle Officer Steve McCall with the county’s Problem-Oriented Policing unit says “There is not a lot of package crime in this area. It is happening in some other parts of the country.”

That hasn’t stopped suspicious neighbors from speculating, however.

On Nextdoor, the popular website for neighborhood gripes, western Albemarle residents recently raised the alarm about missing decorations and packages. As it turns out, this year’s missing decoration, a large snowflake on a mailbox, was stolen by a family member, who argued that the snowflake would be stolen and then stole it himself to make a point.

And the two packages suspected to have been stolen were simply delivered late. In fact, Amazon notes that a person should wait 36 hours after a delivery confirmation, because packages may have been delivered to the post office, which has not yet delivered to the home.

Nonetheless, concerned county residents can call POP cops to do “surveillance and fact gathering” as needed. From two to six officers may be assembled to help with disappearing items, says McCall.

Meanwhile, what may actually be at risk is that gun you keep in your car: Right now, the most reported county crime is larceny from vehicles, according to McCall. People may leave their cars unlocked or leave valuables in sight, such as purses, gifts, sunglasses, electronics, and firearms. Last year, a striking 360 guns were stolen from vehicles; this year the number has dropped to 240, he says.

Most who were caught were in the 18- to 22-year-old age range, breaking into cars “for the thrill of it,” says McCall. “Some other people are supporting their drug habits.”

His advice? “Call 911 immediately if you see a crime in progress,” stresses McCall, who says one person watched a group of five youths ransack a car and called police only after they fled. “Know your surroundings and note what is unusual,” he says. “If you see something, say something.” Though maybe inquire at home first.