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Porch-package thieves play Grinch across Durango, La Plata County

A north Durango woman makes plea to thieves who stole a package containing a family heirloom from her front porch
Jennifer Stewart made a sign and placed it in her front yard after thieves, dubbed “porch pirates” stole a holiday package containing a family heirloom from her front porch on Dec. 15. (Garret Jaros/Durango Herald)

Jennifer Stewart did everything right to keep the “porch pirates” at bay short of sitting in a rocking chair on her front porch with a shotgun cradled in her arms. And she was still robbed – of a family heirloom – by criminals making the rounds to steal packages delivered to people’s porches.

“I was expecting a package and I kept looking out, I kept checking to see if the mail person had come yet,” she said. “And then I stopped because we were having dinner.”

Stewart never did find a package that night. And then the next day a woman who lives north of Oxbow Park showed up on her porch.

“And she was like ‘I’m really sorry to tell you this but you’ve been a victim of mail theft.’ She had the remnants of the knifed-open box, the wrapping paper and an envelope buried down in the wrapping at the bottom of the box,” Stewart said.

The woman had found the package with Stewart’s name on it while she was picking up trash in her yard. Stewart opened the letter from her uncle that was left behind in the box and learned that he had sent a cutting board made by her great-great-grandfather.

“I read that and just started crying,” she said. “My uncle has these heirlooms and then he fixes them up. He had added another piece of wood because the cutting board was broken. I haven’t talked to him yet because I don’t know how to break it to him.”

She knows her uncle will call on Christmas. And she knows she’ll have to tell him.

“Because if you read his letter he’s like ‘feel the grain of the wood and see those burn marks that will be on there for years to come. I sanded it down to get to the heart of the wood,’” Stewart said. “He’s like really intense and into it and it’s very – he does these meaningful things at Christmas.”

Stewart notified police of the theft and then waited a day, to let the emotions settle, before posting a sign addressed to the thieves on her lawn.

“To the Grinch who stole my mail from my front porch: Please return the wood bread board handmade by my great-great-grandfather ... a family heirloom. May your (heart) grow 3 sizes today.”

“I thought, well maybe if the people are still cruising the hood stealing packages, maybe it’s in their back seat and they can throw it out the window into my yard,” Stewart said. “That’s all I hoped. Otherwise, I was just letting the neighbors know what’s happening.”

The Durango Police Department has warned people of an uptick in package theft, known as “porch piracy” on its Facebook page. It is a nationwide problem that always increases during the busy package-delivering holiday season. Durango is no exception. Incidents of package theft from porches have been reported in neighborhoods across town, but west-side neighborhoods (West Park Avenue, West Second Avenue, West Third Avenue, Forest Avenue and Arroyo Drive) have been hit the hardest.

The thefts are especially prevalent during the holidays when deliveries can occur late into the evening, according to police. Some residents are catching their package thefts with the use of security cameras, but that doesn’t stop the packages from being stolen. And most often, thieves cover their faces. Police advise tracking scheduled deliveries. And if no one is going to be home, ask a trusted neighbor to check for packages left on porches.

Other tips include: requiring a signature upon delivery; signing up for delivery alerts; have packages delivered to your office; and working with neighborhood groups to provide a system for reporting suspicious activity to each other.

Stewart hasn’t heard of anything being stolen from her neighbors, but she said police told her they are dealing with a “crazy amount of mail theft.” Stewart recently heard about a car following a UPS truck in Edgemont.

“I asked my mail person to ring my doorbell because they don’t do that anymore,” she said. “Just let me know because I’m probably here.”

A stranger who saw Stewart’s sign stopped to deliver homemade “heirloom” cookies along with a personal note on Wednesday. (Garret Jaros/Durango Herald)

While Stewart shared her story, a car pulled to the curb and a woman got out and approached Stewart with a container of cookies wrapped with a ribbon atop a paper plate.

“Here are some cookies,” the woman said before turning back to her car.

“Oh my gosh,” Stewart said.

“They’re heirloom cookies,” the woman said over her shoulder. A smile on her face. “Have a good day. Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you, you are so kind,” Stewart called after her.

Under the container of cookies the woman had left a hand-written message: “Hope you find your heirloom! Sorry that happened – bread board – Here’s some heirloom cookies. Enjoy!” She had also drawn two smiley faces and a heart.


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