Multnomah County
District Attorney

1200 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 5200
Portland, OR 97204

Multnomah County District Attorney

1200 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 5200
| Portland, OR 97204
| 503-988-3162

Protecting your mail from theft during the holidays

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office wants to remind the community about the potential dangers of leaving mail and packages left unattended after delivery.

“Shopping online is becoming faster and easier than ever before, but with that comes the potential for those deliveries to be stolen with the same amount of ease and speed,” said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Ivan Morales who recently prosecuted a case that involved a man stealing three packages off the porch of a residence in the Eliot neighborhood in North Portland.

Mail remains one of the most secure ways to transport sensitive information. However, with so much personal information being sent through the mail, criminals know how lucrative it can be to steal pieces of mail that contain social security numbers, bank account information and other personal identifying information.

Local law enforcement works closely with the United States Postal Service to ensure, whenever possible, anyone caught stealing mail, or in receipt of stolen mail is held criminally liable. Being in possession of, or actually taking, mail that belongs to someone else is a Class C felony in Oregon.

The District Attorney’s Office may also prosecute someone under the theft statutes for stealing property that does not belong to them such as packages. In the case prosecuted by DDA Morales, the defendant approached a house during the day and stole three packages that were left on the front porch.


“These were birthday presents for the victim,” DDA Morales said. “Stealing packages is like playing the lottery for these criminals. In some instances, they hit the jackpot and could walk away with thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics and other items. When this happens, the victim may never see their property again and may be out all the money spent on the time. Often times, thieves will try to sell the property on the street or online as quickly as possible to make a quick buck.”

When ordering packages online, you should make every effort to be available to receive the packages during the delivery window. If available, consider scheduling your delivery to ensure someone will be at your residence to accept the package.

“The worst thing possible is to have your packages left sitting outside unattended,” DDA Morales said. “That’s just an invitation for someone to walk by and snatch them. As we’ve seen before, this can all happen in mere seconds.”

Speaking with a neighbor you trust and asking them to accept and hold the package can help eliminate the risk of having your package or mail stolen. If travel plans are in your future, consider having your mail temporarily stopped for delivery upon your return.

Doing a home inventory is also very important as it allows you to have documentation of personal belongings and property in the event that they get stolen or damaged in a fire or other disaster. The task of inventorying a house can be pretty monumental but it can also turned into a game with children and teens. When doing an inventory of your belongings, you’ll want to take pictures or video of the items. It’s very important to document serial numbers on electronics like TVs, stereo equipment, cameras, computers and other expensive gadgets. If items, like jewelry or antiques, have recently been appraised, you should include those documents in your inventory. Make sure to have additional copies of the documentation you create. Consider giving one to a trusted family member or friend. The documents should be stored in a damage-proof safe.

“Taking the time to do a detailed inventory can save you a lot of time when it comes to filing a police report and dealing with your insurance company,” DDA Morales said.

You should also consider doing an inventory for any gifts that you buy before they are given to the intended recipient.

“Unopened presents that can be seen from the exterior of your house can be extremely tempting for a thief,” DDA Morales said. “We want everyone to have a safe holiday season. By being aware of your surroundings and making good choices, you may be able to prevent yourself from becoming a crime victim.”

Other winter crime prevention tips

If you’re out shopping…

  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings
  • Park in areas that have plenty of lighting
  • Be sure to close all windows and doors and to ensure your vehicle is locked
  • Avoid carrying around all your shopping bags at once; you could be putting your risk for a packet snatcher to run by and grab your bags right out of your hands
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
  • When using ATMs or other point of sale devices, ensure there is no skimming device attached to the card reader
  • Avoid putting your purse/bags in a shopping cart and leaving it unattended
  • Report anything suspicious to mall or store security

If you’re out for the evening…

  • Invest in timers for your lights and other electronics inside your house to make it appear that someone is home
  • If possible, invest in a home security system with HD video and ensure it is activated
  • Ensure all doors and windows are locked, including garage doors that lead into your home
  • Make sure to close window treatments

If you’re traveling…

  • Inform a trusted neighbor that you will be away
  • If you live in a climate where it snows, consider hiring a company or asking a neighbor to plow your driveway
  • Ensure that your home security system is activated
  • Consider contacting the USPS to have them hold your mail for later pickup or delivery


Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director
Phone: 503.988.6567