We have all seen the evening news talking about folks that follow the UPS truck and snatching the boxes from doorsteps.

Well it is real. On Friday I returned home to my place on South Van Ness and pulled the junk mail out of the mailbox and took it downstairs for recycling. I noticed something curious. There was a box from Amazon and another from GAP online in the black trashcan. Well, I know everyone in the building is super careful about recycling. I wondered why the boxes were in the wrong can. I grabbed the boxes from black can and for some reason looked at the address label. The boxes were addressed to some people who live down the street. What was even more troubling was that the boxes had different addresses. The deliveries had been made to next-door neighbors.

I wrote a little note outlining the problem and taped it to their front doors. Who knows they may have dropped the boxes in a rush. When I got home from making the notification, I looked at the building security camera footage. I started my review at 4 am. Fortunately, movement activates the cameras. The active sensing area begins as one enters the gate. There weren’t a lot of clips to watch. At first the only conclusion I was able to draw was that I needed to lose weight.

Then at 3:43 in the afternoon a young man and woman parked a bike out front, walked through the gate, and triggered the camera. They were carrying the two boxes I had retrieved from the trash but they were unopened. The woman sat down on the stairs and opened one of the boxes, which was filled with clothing from GAP. The guy opened the other box while crouching behind the bush out front. The girl methodically placed the boxes into the trash and they stuffed the contents into a shopping bag as their knapsacks appeared to be filled to capacity. The two, then casually walked out through the gate.

I called the police and was told that they couldn’t do anything until the folks who were robbed called and made a report. I told the officer that I had a video of the unboxing if they needed it. The officer thanked me. I wrote another note outlining what the police had said and walked down and taped it to the victim’s front door as nobody was home. Later on Saturday Officer Valerie Richardson at SFPD called for more details and assured me that they are on it. If anyone knows the people in the video you should call the tip line – 415-575-4444 or Text-A-Tip to “TIP411″.

On Friday after writing my notes to neighbors I stopped to talk with another friend and neighbor. One of the two residents returned. I asked them if they had been expecting a package from the GAP or Amazon. The guy said, “Yes and I was told there was a delivery from Amazon made today.” I told him that I thought that someone might have intercepted his package. I then told him to call the police and file a complaint and that I would be happy to provide anything the police needed. A little later the other victim gave me a call and came down to view the video.

The message here is watch your packages and watch the packages delivered (placed on the stairs) for others in your building. If the package has one of your floor’s neighbors take it inside. If it is on another floor bring it inside and leave a note on the other door. If you were told a delivery was made but nothing is there make a police report. I guess it is the season to watch each other’s back a little more than normal. Now is the beginning of a time where lots of deliveries are being made. Unfortunately there are some brazen folks that follow the delivery trucks. Our holidays shouldn’t be theirs.

George Lipp

Photographer and writer living in the mission

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  1. UPS drivers hate it when you report packages missing as it casts suspicion on them. I once had a package misdelivered to a neighbor.

  2. I simply don’t understand why UPS leaves packages outside in the middle of a city. If you’re not home, they should leave a note telling you to pick it up at the post office.

    1. UPS is a private Company. Why should the post office accept their parcels when the Shipper chose to use UPS and not Pay the Postal Service(USPS)?

    2. I used to work for UPS as a driver. During the peak season of December, UPS (and FEDEX for that matter) gets so many packages that they tell drivers to release ANY package that does not have special instructions of requiring a signature. (This includes questionable crime heavy urban areas). They do this because they literally can’t handle tthe volume of multiple packages being brought back to their stations at the end of the delivery day by drivers. There are too many new packages arriving to be sorted the next day to have drivers bringing back those packages, hence the questionable releases. Also, their revenue is so high during that time, it’s more cost effective to just pay the customers missing package claim than change their driver release policy. It’s really a business decision based on their peak season revenue, not customer satisfaction. If you live in an Urban area with high foot traffic and an unsecured doorway or driveway, the best advice is to have your package sent to your work, an Amazon locker or hold at FEDEX location shipping option.

    3. I agree, I live in the middle of Manhattan (grew up in SF) and the UPS folks here never leave packages outside. What are they thinking in SF? Especially on South Van Ness? Come on! That’s an invitation for crackheads to have access to your stuff…as shown in the video…Too bad you got your stuff stolen, hope it’s taken care of.

    1. actually I am getting another set-up I didn’t like the resolution. and these things are amazingly easy to set up.

  3. I smiled to myself about your comment about weight gain. People are so hard on themselves! I have no idea what you look like but can assure you that what the rest of us see most clearly here is your big heart: This was incredibly great of you to put such effort into this for your community. Thank you!

  4. I’ve found open boxes in my bushes many times. Following the delivery trucks is a whole new level though. Send packages to your work or make sure you’re home.

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