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Homestead man admits to stealing packages off doorsteps

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 11:48 p.m.

A Homestead man pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing goods delivered last holiday season, the same day police arrested a Wilkinsburg man and accused him of taking Christmas presents in Squirrel Hill.

Both cases highlight calls for consumers to safeguard their gifts for others, officials said.

“With the ease and convenience of having gifts delivered right to the door and the hectic nature of the holidays, consumers often forget to take the necessary precautions to help protect purchases from doorstep thieves,” said Caitlin Vancas, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania,

Guy Lamont Palmer Jr., 25, pleaded guilty to burglary, receiving stolen property and other charges. Police said he followed UPS delivery vans and swooped in to steal packages from North Side residences.

A residential surveillance video on Garfield Avenue captured Palmer in action. He told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani he stole to feed a marijuana habit.

A fingerprint helped Swissvale police identify a suspect wanted in connection with delivered packages stolen from Regent Square homes, Chief Greg Geppert said.

“It's one of our frequent fliers, a juvenile we've sent away a lot,” he said. “It's ridiculous the burglaries you see this time of the year.”

Pittsburgh police arrested Steven Green, 48, after seeing him walking in and out of apartment building lobbies and opening and discarding a white packing envelope. He is charged with theft and other counts.

National figures are not kept on package thefts, but holiday crime losses are expected to cost U.S. retailers $8.9 billion, according to a new study by the United Kingdom-based Centre for Retail Research.

Authorities believe delivered packages often offer easier targets — either with criminals trailing delivery vans or trolling neighborhoods looking for packages left outside.

Through last week, Americans spent $29.3 billion for online purchases this holiday season, up 13 percent over last year, according to research company comScore.

Pittsburgh FedEx spokeswoman Angela Wheland said policies are in place to keep thefts down.

“Our drivers all know to be alert to suspicious activity, especially this time of the year,” she said. “We give our drivers the authority not to deliver a package if they don't think it is safe to do so.”

Consumers also can track packages online and make special requests to bolster safe delivery, such as asking it to be held at a FedEx facility, rerouted to a neighbor's house or have it delivered in the evening when someone will be home, Wheland said.

Neighbors can be an extra set of eyes, Geppert said.

“If anybody sees anything,” he said, “we ask that they call the police.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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