East Austin neighborhood using social media to catch package thieves in the act

Two people were arrested Thursday in east Austin for stealing packages off porches in the Mueller subdivision (Courtesy: Zeke Martinez, Mueller Resident).

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The holidays are drawing package thieves to an east Austin neighborhood. Residents in the Mueller subdivision are reporting on Facebook an unusually high number of packages being taken off porches, sometimes in the middle of the afternoon. Residents have formed a neighborhood watch through social media and are fighting back.

On Thursday, Zeke Martinez was at the HEB in Mueller filling up his car when he noticed on the Mueller Facebook page someone posting about a suspicious car.

“It said there was a silver car that was near my location so I decided to go and check it out,” Martinez says.

He found the car and watched as a woman got out, went onto a porch, took a package and walked back to the passenger’s seat of the car. Martinez called 911 and decided to follow the car.

“The driver eventually noticed I was behind him and took off down the street, he was going like 80 miles an hour when I lost him.”

Martinez pulled into the Dollar General off Springdale Road and discovered the people he was following were there and had lost a tire in their pursuit to get away. Austin police ended up arresting a man and a juvenile woman and discovered dozens of stolen packages inside their car.

“We were able to give many of the Mueller residents their packages back,” says Sr. Police Officer Everett Beldin. “However we highly recommend residents not pursue people they suspect of stealing packages — instead just call 911 and let us handle it from there.”

In fact, Austin police say residents throughout the city are good at posting to social media about problems in their neighborhood but then neglect to notify police.

“You report it on Facebook, you report it on Twitter, you report it on NextDoor and I say, ‘Did you call APD? They say no.’ Call APD first, then move on to make everyone else aware,” Beldin says.

While many Mueller residents have turned to home surveillance — from cameras to a RING doorbell – it didn’t stop a man from walking onto Megan Cooper’s front porch.

“The package was delivered and about 30 minutes later the guy just takes it and walks away,” Cooper says. “It’s crazy how it’s happening every day and there’s a post on the neighborhood page saying people are out right now taking my packages.”

Police are recommending some options to keep packages from being stolen, like having it delivered to an Amazon Locker. The nearest location can be found by typing in a zip code on the Amazon website. Other options include paying an additional fee of $5 to have a packaged delivered to Walgreens, shipping the package to your work or having a neighbor pick it up when it’s delivered.

Rebecca Salam now turns to her Amazon app to see a picture of her delivery if she is away. And she’s thankful so many in her neighborhood are being vigilant about thieves.

“There’s basically a neighborhood watch where people sit and wait for any cars they think, ‘Oh this is it.'”


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