Thefts on the Rise in the Flathead

At least 42 cars have been stolen in the valley since August; package thefts also a concern

By Justin Franz

Two months ago, Beth Woods needed to quickly get some supplies for her kids’ Halloween costumes so she did what a lot of people would: she went on Amazon. Her son wanted to be Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky from the 1986 classic “Top Gun” and her daughter wanted to be a cat.

The cat costume and the Iceman hat were due to arrive the day before Halloween; plenty of time to get the outfits together. But when Woods got to her home in Bigfork, the Amazon packages were nowhere to be found. After reaching out to her postman who confirmed he had delivered them and then talking to a neighbor who said she was also missing some packages, Woods realized that a porch pirate had snatched her kids’ Halloween costumes.

Woods ended up having to drive into town to gather everything she needed for her kids’ costumes. The costumes came out fine and Woods said the family now has all its packages held at the Post Office.

“It’s frustrating, annoying and sad,” she said. “You like to think that we live in a small town and bad things like this don’t happen here, but I guess there are selfish people everywhere.”

Local law enforcement says there is always an increase of package thefts around the holidays. According to a recent story in the New York Times, more than 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing every day in the United States.

According to Sheriff Brian Heino, his office has received more than 400 theft reports since August, not including car thefts.

Scott Foster is a retired postmaster from Whitefish who spent 25 years with the U.S. Postal Service, including 23 years in management. He said there are a number of ways to reduce the chances of having your packages stolen. He said people should always subscribe to package tracking via the USPS, UPS or FedEx to get updates on the whereabouts of their package sent to their phone or email. People should always check their mailboxes or porches for letters and packages every day. And, if possible, people should have a secluded spot to leave packages on their porch or in their doorway. If you don’t have a spot to hide a package, Foster recommends getting a plastic tote where the delivery person can hide a package. Foster said any would-be robbers would think it’s sand or salt for a driveway and not a spot to hide packages.

“A thief is not usually going to come up on your porch if they can’t see a box from the road,” he said.

Heino said while package thefts are always a problem this time of year — thanks in part to the spike in holiday packages — car thefts have become an even bigger problem. Since August, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has received reports of 42 cars being stolen across the valley. Heino said deputies have been able to return most of the cars, usually within 24 hours, but sometimes the vehicles are damaged. Heino recommends never leaving the keys inside a car and always lock the doors.

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