Package pirates can hit close to home

Local News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — We’ve all been warned to watch for porch pirates, but what if the package snatcher is your own neighbor?

And how do delivery companies catch their own employees trying to steal presents before the box even gets to your door? Both of those happened locally this week.

‘Tis the season and Santa’s Champaign-Urbana office (namely, the UPS facility on North Lincoln Avenue) is doing its best to deliver Christmas.

Then they caught an elf smuggling boxes into the bathroom.

“There was an employee that obviously was going through packages and then posted it on social media for sale,” says Champaign County Sheriff’s Office investigator Curt Apperson.

CCSO says Smoothe Rivers is on the naughty list. The management at UPS told deputies they busted him trying to sell goods on social media. Apperson says you should watch for that.

“There’s a lot of people who use social media to sell stuff,” he says, “And I would stay away from that. Unless you know the person and you know the history of the device and know what you’re buying.”

But sometimes, even the people you’re supposed to know can burn you. Just ask Heather Bautista. She always has a live view of her front yard on her phone.

“My phone dinged from Amazon telling me my package had arrived,” Bautista said, “Then, my Nest app dinged me, telling me some person was at my front door.”

It was none other than her neighbor from across the street.

“I actually watched him, live, take the package and walk across the street into his house,” she says.

After opening the box, the thief dropped it back in Bautista’s driveway. It was a stuffed animal for her daughter, and she figures he returned it after realizing he had no use for it.

Something everyone might have a use for though, is a camera to bust would-be Grinches.

“A lot of people out there have video,” says Apperson, “Whether it’s a Ring doorbell, or some type of surveillance in the house, and it is just being plastered on social media, where everybody sees it.”

“It was really surprising that it was my neighbor, out of everything,” Bautista says, “You think you can trust them, but clearly not as well as I thought I could.”

Bautista called police who spoke with the neighbor. She’s not pressing charges, but says, if they ever set foot on her property again, it will be a different story.

While her daughter’s Christmas was salvaged, every year, thousands of others aren’t as lucky. Apperson says you should always report package thefts to police. Even though home surveillance systems can put more thieves behind bars, you should always track your packages, get alerts on your phone, and have a backup plan if you can’t be home when they arrive.

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