Both the Rohnert Park and Cotati police departments are not reporting an increase in theft this year over last year, but still warn residents and shoppers to be aware to minimize theft both from their cars and their homes.
“Right now is that time when people are getting all that last minute stuff,” says Commander Aaron Johnson of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. “We typically don’t get those reports until closer to the holiday or after because people realize these gifts never showed up. Now with the delivery schedules all being online and the cell phone notifications people are pretty prompt in reporting it if it happens.”
Rohnert Park has actually seen a decrease so far this year of vehicle burglaries, another type of theft that tends to increase at this time of year with people leaving purchases in cars. Johnson partly credits the departments “If I Were a Thief…You Would Now Be a Victim” community awareness campaign. The program entailed of public safety personnel going into neighborhoods and parking lots throughout the city, looking into vehicles for visible items that would attract a thief and placing a notice on the windshield identifying those items as a reminder to residents not to leave items of value visible.
“Since we started the ‘If I were a thief program’ we’ve had a 38 percent decrease in vehicle burglaries from 2017 to 2018,” says Johnson. “We had 51 fewer burglaries from a locked vehicle. We’re hoping that some of our methodology transfers to Dec. when people go shopping, not to leave what they purchased in plain sight.”
Law enforcement reminds residents to remove gifts and packages from vehicles as soon as possible. If it is necessary to park with parcels in the car, keep them out of sight and of course keep cars locked. Overall, be aware. At this time of year people who want to take advantage will watch for people dropping off shopping bags in their car and walking away. It can be a wise decision to re-park after dropping packages off.
There are also several things residents can do to keep packages safe from porch pirates. First, be aware of when packages will be delivered. Most online retailers send tracking information along with their order confirmations that allows consumers to see the exact day, and sometimes even time, the package is scheduled to arrive. Alerts from delivery companies such as UPS can also be set up, which will send notifications as soon as a package is delivered.
“I would recommend that those people who know they will be receiving packages, if they are away from home at work or at school, that they should arrange to have a friend or relative pick up those packages so they’re not sitting on the front porch easily accessible in view all day,” says Cotati Police Chief Michael Parrish.
Registering mail or requiring a signature on delivery can also ensure package safety, especially for those high-ticket items and shoppers can even write on the package they send “don’t leave on doorstep.” While there is no official policy with the post office regarding this, most mail carriers will honor this request and put a notice on the door for the receiver to pick up the package at the post office.
In the event that one does have a package stolen, police departments urge residents to report the crime.
“It’s good to let us know,” says Johnson. “We may know that there is surveillance footage somewhere. If there’s a car we could get it on one of the Ring doorbells or something like that and if we see that car cruising through other neighborhoods we can draw attention to it.”
Another option to consider is having packages sent to one’s workplace, or using a package locker option. UPS offers access point lockers that allow users to securely pick up and drop off packages at various local businesses, grocery stores and UPS store locations that make up the UPS access point network. Amazon also offers Amazon Lockers – a self-service parcel delivery service. Customers can select any locker location as their delivery address, and retrieve their orders at that location by entering a unique pick-up code on the Locker touch screen. The closest Amazon locker in our community is in Rohnert Park at the Safeway on Commerce Boulevard.
“I would say, shop locally and support our economy instead of buying everything on Amazon,” says Johnson. “We rely on sales tax. That is something my family has done – we’ve tried to do as much local shopping as we can, if not in Rohnert Park, then in our county. Our county faced a horrible disaster so we depend on that tax revenue to help. If you don’t want packages to get stolen, go to our local stores and buy them and bring them home!”