Safe parcel drops aim to thwart thefts during busy holiday season

During a busy holiday season when the number of parcel deliveries is spiking, some Winnipeg stores and community centres are trying to foil delivery thefts by offering safe drop zones for packages.

Canada Post estimates it delivers 1M parcels a day during the holidays

This doorbell camera caught an alleged parcel thief in the act, stealing a box of Lego from the River Heights neighbourhood in Winnipeg. (Submitted)

The first theft from Darren's doorstep was a bulky box of Lego. 

His doorbell camera captured the scene unfold: the alleged thief pulled up on a bicycle, and then awkwardly carried the package away.

Then, two days later, Darren says it happened again.

"It's very unnerving. In the video, one person has their face covered, the other person doesn't. It's pretty brazen," said Darren. "You feel, what happens if they wanted to come inside or do something else? Steal something bigger? But, it is very scary."

Watch someone take a box of Lego from Darren's doorstep:

Alleged parcel theft caught on camera

3 years ago
Duration 0:41
A doorbell camera in River Heights captures the moment an alleged parcel thief steals a box of Lego from a doorstep.

CBC is not using Darren's last name because he fears being the target of further thefts. He lives in River Heights, an affluent neighborhood that has been plagued by porch thefts, car vandalism and garage break-and-enters. 

During a busy holiday season with lots of parcels out for delivery, some Winnipeg stores and community centres are trying to foil delivery thefts by offering safe drop zones for packages.

"I would definitely use a safe drop," Darren said. "It's good for me because I know my package will be safe but it's good maybe to meet small businesses. They probably live in the neighbourhood too and you get to meet people who are doing good things."

A million parcels a day

Canada Post estimates it delivers about a million parcels a day in the holiday season, which begins in mid-November. Last year, the total number of parcels it handled domestically increased by nearly 11 percent, or 20 million packages, compared to 2017.

"Only Santa delivers more than we do," said spokesperson Hayley Magermans in a statement. 

Canada Post says the overall number of parcels it handled domestically in 2018 increased by nearly 11 per cent compared to 2017. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The corporation does not track parcel thefts. Neither does the Winnipeg Police Service.

But even without hard data, there have been enough tales of stolen parcels for some groups to take action.

The Sturgeon Heights Community Centre in Winnipeg is offering up one of its locked change rooms as a safe parcel drop zone. 

People can email the centre to let it know a package is on the way, and the centre will email them when it arrives. It's a free service, but the centre is requesting a small donation to go toward its winter carnival costs.

"We just think it will make our community feel safer and that's what the community centre is about," said Linda Smiley, the centre's president.

Linda Smiley, president of the Sturgeon Heights Community Centre, says the facility is asking for a small donation for the parcel drop service to go toward its winter carnival. (Warren Kay/CBC)

So far, the response is promising — the club received sign-ups for about ten packages within the first few days, said treasurer Curtis Fehr.

"We're trusted, we're well-known," Fehr said. "It's been tremendous." 

'We don't want anybody's Christmas presents stolen'

It's a similar story over at Gorilla Jack Supplements, an independent and locally-owned store in Winnipeg's North End.

Owner Bernard Pacak said he once averted an apparent parcel theft while out walking his dog. That, combined with footage and posts on social media he saw about the problem, prompted him to offer up his store as a safe drop location on a Facebook group.

Bernard Pacak, owner of Gorilla Jack Supplements, estimates his store has raised about $200 for Main Street Project by offering a safe parcel drop space. (Warren Kay/CBC)

He's asking for a dollar donation for Main Street Project in return for the service — and estimates he's brought in about $200 so far, plus 60 pairs of socks.

"We don't want anybody's Christmas presents stolen, or holiday presents stolen," Pacak said.

He acknowledged the service could provide a boost to his client base, but added, "Our goal is really just to kind of, you know, bring a kindness and awareness to the community."

Victor Janus took advantage of the service. He ordered a referee jersey online and had it delivered to the store.

"Always easier... if you can just order from your chair and have it delivered," he said.

Canada Post recommends customers research shipping options.

It notes customers can often decide whether they'd like the package left on their property, or dropped off at a post office.

Its "FlexDelivery" service allows customers to use post office locations as shipping addresses. 

Canada Post recommends people track their parcels and report potential thefts — and any suspicious activity to the police. 

Canada Post recommends customers research shipping options, including whether retailers will allow a delivery to a post office instead of a porch. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

With files from Cameron MacIntosh