URBANA, Illinois – Online shopping is popular during every holiday season, and even more so this year with COVID-19 keeping people at home.
Unfortunately, that means package thefts may be popular too.
While the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus area has yet to see a significant uptick in thefts as the holiday season gets started, the University of Illinois Police Department wants to be proactive in reminding students, faculty, staff and other residents of the campus area to be mindful of a few best practices when sending or receiving packages.
“Theft is a crime of opportunity, and it’s the most common crime on our campus,” said U. of I. Police Sgt. Gene Moore. “There are a few pretty simple ways we can remove that opportunity and prevent thefts from happening, but it requires everyone to be mindful about what they are doing."
Recently, UIPD received two reports of students having gift cards or cash stolen from greeting cards sent to them by family. And investigators know that package thefts increase during the holiday season based on previous years’ experiences.
If you are receiving packages from online retailers, do not leave packages unattended in common areas or unsecure areas for long periods of time. If there is an option to have the package delivered to a secure area or an area covered by security cameras, then do that. If that is not possible, keep an eye on delivery notifications so you know when your item has arrived and retrieve it promptly.
Do not have anything delivered to your home while you are out of town.
Keep secure areas secure. Thieves often access secure areas by entering immediately behind someone else who has unlocked the door – a practice known as “tailgating” or “piggybacking.” If someone whom you don’t recognize is trying to enter behind you, it is OK to politely ask them to use their own key or swipe card to open a locked door.
If you are sending packages or cards containing gifts to family or friends, disguise it as best you can. Do not use packaging that clearly indicates the item is a gift or that there are valuables inside. Use generic packaging when possible, and seal it well.
And one of the best ways to prevent theft is to inform police when you notice suspicious activity – if you see anyone looking through packages in a mail area or hanging around a secure area where they are not supposed to be, call the non-emergency line at 217-333-8911.
“We really need everyone’s help this holiday season,” Moore said. “This year has already thrown so many challenges at us – let’s not let theft around the holidays be another thing on top of that.”