Gift deliveries prove ripe for theft
Gap clothes! A fruit basket! Hair growth shampoo!
A battery laptop! And brown leather shoes!
The parcels delivered by workers in brown suits were stolen from Medford and Somerville stoops, by Grinches who crammed their old Mazda with a stash they hoped to convert into Christmastime cash.
The pair accused of stealing Christmas presents - and other deliveries - were not the only ones alleged to have swiped packages this week. A father-daughter duo and a part-time UPS worker were also arraigned yesterday in Quincy District Court on separate larceny charges. Two parcels were apparently snatched from porches on Pine Street in Wellesley yesterday afternoon.
The dismal state of the economy - and the uptick in online shopping and shipping - seems to be making conditions ripe for porch-picking.
“There seems to be more of a rash this year,’’ said Quincy Police Captain John Dougan, who considers the thefts crimes of opportunity.
An October consumer survey found that nearly 47 percent of consumers intended to do at least some of their shopping online, up from 44 percent last year, the National Retail Federation reported. That makes for plenty of deliveries: The United Parcel Service, alone expects to deliver some 120 million packages this week - with its peak day exceeding a normal day’s volume by 60 percent, said Ronna Branch, UPS spokeswoman.
“Unfortunately, this season, we see the best and the worst of people,’’ said Branch.
One person’s carefully chosen Christmas present can be easily sold for another person’s drug money, police say.
“If you leave it out on a porch and people walk by and see it, you’re leaving it out for anybody to take,’’ said Dougan.
Somerville Police Captain Charles J. Femino said that his city’s bust Tuesday was the largest he has seen and that the thefts in that city may have been ongoing for months.
“This type of crime at this time of year is not unique to Somerville, but I can’t say that I’ve seen it on this scale before,’’ he said.
Police said they stopped Kristen M. Casey and Manuel D. Sheehan in a Mazda on McGrath Highway allegedly with numerous packages marked for express delivery to addresses in Somerville and Medford. Police later searched the couple’s Everett Avenue home and said they found dozens of items stolen from doorsteps, including a fruit basket, sneakers, hair growth shampoo, and clothing.
Dozens of cellphones, a sleek vacuum cleaner, shiny women’s rings, and hundreds of other items were on display yesterday inside the Somerville Police Department’s large meeting room. Asked by authorities where she got the packages, Casey allegedly replied “I’m not sure. They were mostly small side streets,’’ according to a report filed in Somerville District Court yesterday. Police said she then began to cry and apologize.
Some of the packages may have been taken from homes or cars, rather than front porches or vestibules, Femino said.
“It’s disturbing because I order a lot of things online,’’ said Linda Nockler, a resident of Lowell Street, where Sheehan and Casey allegedly stole mail deliveries from at least four addresses, according to a police report. Nockler did not know that her delivery had been stolen, and was informed it was by a Globe reporter during an interview yesterday.
Having ordered books weeks ago, she was planning to contact Amazon.com about her unfulfilled purchases. “This answers that mystery,’’ she said. “It is very disturbing because I order a lot of things online.’’
Casey, 26, and Sheehan, 27, appeared yesterday in court where they pleaded not guilty to charges of larceny and receiving stolen property.
Casey, who has no prior criminal record, was released on personal recognizance by District Court Judge Maurice R. Flynn III. But Flynn set bail for Sheehan at $5,000 cash - double the amount Middlesex prosecutors had requested - and revoked bail in his pending case in Cambridge District Court. That means he will not be released if he posts the bail on the Somerville arrest.
Prosecutors said Sheehan has 31 convictions as an adult and has missed court appearances 18 times.
Also yesterday, in Quincy District Court, the father-daughter duo pleaded not guilty to one count of larceny over $250 and one count of larceny under $250. Both were released on bail warnings and ordered to stay away from the victims.
Police said that on Tuesday, a neighbor spotted a woman walking away from her home in Quincy carrying a package that had been delivered earlier in the day, and ride off in a white pick-up truck, Dougan said.
Police spotted a white Ford pickup truck with an American flag detail nearby and spoke with the driver, who identified himself as 58-year-old Michael Ritchie of Union Street in Rockland.
Dougan said Ritchie told police he was in the neighborhood where the package was stolen, but was just visiting with his 19-year-old daughter, Jennifer Ritchie. But police say they spotted the missing package in the back of the truck.
Separately, Jennifer Ritchie was questioned by police, and, according to police, she reportedly admitted stealing that package and others from the North Quincy neighborhood.
In the same court, part-time UPS delivery man Michael J. McClellan, 30, pleaded not guilty to charges of larceny over $250 and larceny from a common carrier. He was arrested by police after UPS security accused McClellan of taking packages from a delivery truck and opening them in a small Quincy park. A driver had seen him walking to a wooded area with packages and a supervisor found an open box with a Movado watch removed, authorities said.
He was held on $10,000 bail on that case; and held on a bail revocation on a prior case in which he had never paid restitution, said David Traub, spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey.
Police said McClellan was found with items that were supposed to be delivered, including a Movado watch worth $338, a USB cable, and a package of Newman’s Own Coffee.
“They also found a DVD of ‘Gone With the Wind’ that was also supposed to be in the truck,’’ said Dougan. “Don’t ask me why.’’
That leaves the Quincy police to play Santa Claus, redistributing items to residents. Anyone with missing packages is asked to call Quincy police detectives at 617-745-5764. Police will try to make the deliveries by Christmas.
Delivery specialists recommend a number of alternatives to keep packages safe - have packages shipped to a neighbor or friend who is home during the day, or to a work address, if permitted; use online tracking to anticipate a delivery date; or request that the packages be held at a delivery office.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert. Brian R. Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou.