Porch thefts: Security advice on prevention and response

Des Ryan, a retired Toronto police officer, is a CRA board director and our volunteer safety and security lead.

It seems there has been an increase in porch thefts in our neighbourhood recently. Neighbours are advising that their Amazon packages have been taken, strollers have been snatched away and, it would seem, any item that can be left without a signature is up for grabs.

What to do?

Arrange to have the package left with a neighbour who can receive it or consider picking up your package from Purolator or FedEx or at Penguin PickUp, the package-delivery service that has sprung up on Parliament.

If you can opt for “signature required” on packages, it should not be left at your door but returned to a courier depot for pickup. (In my personal experience, that’s not always the case, though.) If you can choose a delivery courier – often you can’t, as it’s shipper’s choice – remember that Purolator is run by Canada Post and a package that cannot be delivered to the recipient goes back to the nearest Canada Post outlet: for most of us, that’s the Shoppers Drug Mart on Parliament Street.

If none of these work for you and your package gets stolen from your porch, report to police. Whether the package taken contained a $5 children’s book or a $380 attaché case, it is still a theft, and police need to be notified.

If the person or persons are stealing your package(s) or property right now (or you see them leaving your porch with your property), call 9-1-1. This is a Theft in Progress. The call-taker will want to know what the person looks like (i.e. height, weight, clothing description, anything unusual/remarkable about their appearance) and last known direction of travel, and whether they are on foot, bicycle, or hop into a vehicle.

If you have been notified by the delivery company that the parcel was delivered, and it is not on your porch, file a report online.

Again, the value of the property stolen is immaterial when considering whether to report or not. What is important is that our local police are aware that thefts are taking place so that, hopefully, they will increase patrols in the area.

If you have security footage, please provide it to the police. Some people have been posting the images from their footage on social media. While stating that the individual captured on the footage is a thief may not be appropriate (morally or legally), suggesting that they may be a person of interest in relation to the thefts in the neighbourhood could be helpful in alerting us to be aware.

If you see the individual who you believe may be of interest in these thefts, call 9-1-1. Advise the call-taker that you are calling regarding a suspect for the porch thefts in the area. Again, you will be asked to provide descriptors such as height, weight, and clothing.

Simply put, it is imperative that we alert the police about this criminal activity. While we may believe that having officers respond and/or investigate such a minor crime is a waste of their time, it is not. Patrols are report-driven. If there are no reports of criminal activity in Cabbagetown, we cannot possibly expect we will see officers on our streets or bicycling through our parks in the summer.

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