HIGHLAND — Sam Roundy and his family were expecting new Christmas tree ornaments, several sets of pajamas and other gifts to arrive at their doorstep when a neighbor sent a text saying the packages were strewn across a park nearby.
"Everything was Christmas-related: Clothing, custom ornaments for our tree and other knickknacks" worth a total of $300, Roundy said. "We felt very vulnerable."
After nine years in the neighborhood, the weekend bookended by Black Friday and Cyber Monday was the first time boxes have disappeared from his stoop.
Roundy, a computer programmer who lives in Highland, is not alone, police say.
Authorities are warning holiday shoppers that thieves are not waiting until December to snatch packages. It's a national problem as more customers buy gifts for loved ones online: Roughly 83 percent of consumers are expected to do their holiday shopping from behind a computer screen, according to a September analysis by Deloitte, the financial consulting company.
Although more homeowners have installed digital cameras that can help police investigate, the footage often fails to identify burglars, said Lone Peak police detective Dave Ventrano.
"It's happening a lot," said Ventrano, who is working to identify the person who stole Roundy's belongings. He cautions residents to report to police any suspicious cars, plus the license plate numbers, and keep an eye on what's happening on their block.
As in Roundy's case, thieves often drive off, stop a few blocks away, rifle through the boxes and dump them in the street if they believe the goods aren't valuable enough, Ventrano said.
"We've actually had officers find packages in the road and return them," Ventrano said. "People didn't realize they were victims until the officer came and knocked on their doors."
Ventrano and others in law enforcement recommend that shoppers closely track the progress of their order online; require a signature at the time of delivery; leave a message asking for deliveries to be left around back; or ask a neighbor who generally is home during the day to accept the package.Comment on this story
In November and December, Roundy said his family usually orders about 12 items a week. He said his ordeal is persuading him "to put preventive measures in place," though he hasn't decided on any just yet.
Meantime, police say they believe the suspect in his case is a woman in a white car that is missing rear hub caps.
Roundy's is one of eight such reports to come to Lone Peak police over the weekend, Ventrano said. His force has taken to Facebook to seek the public's help in identifying suspects captured in security footage or spotted by witnesses, he said.
"We can't do it all ourselves," Ventrano said, "so it's nice when the public can help."