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Hell’s Kitchen holiday shoppers are eagerly awaiting the last blast of gifts to arrive home but there are more than a few Grinches ready to steal Christmas. Package theft is on the increase across the neighborhood — including this theft, caught on camera during a heist which ended in a dramatic chase on W47th Street.
“It’s a huge problem right now, especially in walk-ups,” said Larry Roberts, a longtime resident of Hell’s Kitchen whose building on W47th Street has experienced a rise in package theft over recent weeks.
“It’s happened twice in the last couple of weeks where I’ve actually caught the person,” said Roberts. In the first incident, Roberts buzzed the door open, thinking that it was his son and girlfriend home for Thanksgiving. “I didn’t ask who it was, which is on me,” he admits, “but it was 11 o’clock at night and I was expecting them so I just buzzed them in.”
But instead of family arriving for the holiday, Roberts encountered a woman roaming the hallway of the building, collecting residents’ packages. Confronted by Roberts, the would-be thief apologized and left. “It was the evening before Thanksgiving, and I didn’t want to get anyone involved with the cops, so I let her go,” said Roberts. She returned the packages before taking off.
Several weeks later, however, he came face to face with another would-be thief. “I heard some noise downstairs and when I walked to the lobby, there was a guy with two large packages from our lobby,” he told W42ST. Roberts chased the perpetrator, who dropped the packages before fleeing down the block. “He didn’t get anything from our building, but he definitely had other boxes in his bag so he probably got other buildings on the block.”
Package theft is common in New York City and across the country, with a recent insurance study revealing that two-thirds of Americans reported having packages stolen from them in 2021. In New York, though the NYPD does not specifically track package theft, according to the New York Times as many as 90,000 packages disappear from New York City lobbies every day.
So how do you prevent package theft in a city where unstaffed building lobbies are open season and thieves easily gain access by buzzing in under the pretense of being a delivery worker? A recent Wirecutter article recommends setting up shipping notifications to monitor the exact location of your packages, sending deliveries to a secure pick-up location like an Amazon locker or a UPS Drop Off point, installing cameras as a theft deterrent and ordering online for in-store pickup. Most sources recommend not confronting someone if you encounter a theft in action.
Back in Hell’s Kitchen, Roberts and his fellow residents, who co-manage the building, have installed cameras as well as a J-Bar lock to prevent break-ins, but the risk of residents unwittingly buzzing in thieves is still present. “It’s easy to do, and it’s how a lot of people get into buildings,” he added. He was contacted by an Amazon representative about installing a locker, like many Hell’s Kitchen homes, but the building lobby is not large enough to support one without blocking fire safety egress routes.
For now, they’re relying on fellow tenants to be hyper-aware and “telling residents — don’t order things if you’re not going to be home,” said Roberts. “And if you are expecting packages, to get them as soon as you get notification or as soon as you get home.”
And if that doesn’t work, here’s one creative New Yorker’s solution — there’s always the option to leave a gift for your package thief: