Crime & Courts

Packages aren’t the only things being stolen from front porches

Joni Meeth is pretty sure the person who stole the Dale Earnhardt Jr. flag from off of her porch a while back is a fan of the race car driver and probably wanted it to display it in their own house. It had been hanging beside another racing flag that the thief didn’t touch.

After it disappeared, she moved the rest of her outdoor decor closer to her southeast Wichita home and started keeping her outside lights on overnight.

Now she worries she might become a victim of this sort of theft again after hearing others say items on their porches have gone missing.

“It’s been a while and nothing else has happened,” she said in a Facebook message. “But with the recent day time thefts (it) sure makes my outdoor furniture a target.”

Those flags, patio sets, pretty mats and pots sitting on the porch might give your home curb appeal. But authorities say they can also attract thieves.

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While freshly delivered packages are the items most commonly stolen from outside of people’s houses, decor also is a frequent target, Wichita police spokeswoman Sgt. Nikki Woodrow said.

“We’ve seen cases of nice potted plants stolen, or chairs and furniture,” Woodrow said. Usually, she added, these types of thefts are “just for personal gain.” But sometimes — especially in the case of metal items — thieves will try to resell them or trade them to a scrap yard for cash.

“If somebody sees it and they want it, they just take it,” Woodrow said.

Melinda Sprague Corona, on Facebook, said the thief who stole her son’s bicycle off of her porch broke her deck to get to it. Manuel Meraz also had a bike and a car jack stolen, he said.

At Debbie Carrion Gallardo’s home, it was a wicker table that went missing. For Celeste Utter, it was a concrete bird bath.

A few years ago, a thief or thieves crept up onto Michael Safarik’s porch at his north Wichita home and walked off wind chimes, statues and an American flag. He said he thought it was a little strange that anyone would want them since, collectively, they were worth less than $75.

“All of this happened before I put up security cameras,” he said in a Facebook message.

Woodrow didn’t know exactly how many porch and yard thefts had been reported over the past year in Wichita. The police department doesn’t track that specifically because, for the agency’s reporting purposes, those types of thefts fall under the larger umbrella of home larcenies, she said.

But reports are coming in.

Woodrow said the best defense against porch thieves is installing security cameras outside of your home and getting to know your neighbors. “They know when somebody is not supposed to be there ... and if you’re not home they can keep an eye on your house.”

She also suggested locking down or securing objects and decor to the porch when possible.

Anyone who has fallen victim to a porch or yard theft should call the Wichita Police Department’s 24-hour case desk at 316-268-4221to report it, Woodrow said. People can also call any of the four police substations during regular weekday business hours or 911.

“I can see some people thinking, ‘Well I’m never going to get that chair back and I don’t know who did it, so why do I need to file a report?’” Woodrow said. “But it’s important for us because we are able to track crime trends from it.”

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Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker