The holiday gifting season is here, and with it, one of the most odious of traditions: package thefts.
San Diego County Sheriff’s officials say they’ve nabbed a gift Grinch who was taking packages from East County homes.
Starting on Nov. 21, the suspect targeted homes in Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and unincorporated El Cajon, getting away with $1,000 worth of merchandise.
Finally, deputies got a lead when one home’s surveillance cameras caught the crook in the act. The sheriff’s department says Martha Lampley, 37, was booked into jail on burglary charges in connection with the series. She was recently released from prison, so she also faces charges of violating her parole with drug and drug paraphernalia possession.
More charges are pending against her after detectives discovered stolen packages and merchandise in a storage unit tied to Lampley. According to Sgt. Greg Hampton, the suspect may be responsible for other commercial and residential burglaries from stores like Kohls and Target.
Many of the stolen items were returned to their proper owners Wednesday, but the investigation is ongoing to see if others were involved.
Hampton said deputies see a rise in package thefts around the holidays.
“We’ve seen it on the news before where people follow the delivery trucks, they see them drop off packages, and they just come up right behind them and take them off the porch,” he said.
Officials are hoping to halt more package thievery by helping residents keep their deliveries safe.
The sheriff’s department listed the following tips:
- Choose the delivery option that has you sign for your package and ask friend and relatives sending you items to do the same. Request a tracking number from them.
- Sign up for email and text alerts to watch out for your items’ delivery status.
- If you won’t be home when it is scheduled to arrive, have it shipped to your work or other location.
- Give mail carriers special instructions on where to place packages, like behind a bush, on a side patio, etc.
- Choose to pick up your package instead of delivery.
- Get to know your mail carriers.
- Insure your packages.
- Look out for neighbors and they’ll look out for you.
- Report suspicious activity to the sheriff’s department or police.
If your deliveries are stolen, have proof of ownership like a receipt, tracking information, insurance claim or crime report ready when you report the theft to law enforcement.
U.S. Postal Service mail or package thefts should be reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, since it is a federal crime. Call the U.S.P.S. inspectors at 877-876-2455 or submit a report online.
You can also put your mail on a vacation hold by visiting the USPS website.