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Enterprising elves are offering consumers a secure address to send packages in exchange for donations during the holiday online shopping season.
• Schedule deliveries for times where someone is home to receive them
• Use tracking technology to monitor a package’s whereabouts
• Set up text or email notifications for package arrival
• Use a parcel locker
• Set up a signature upon dropoff requirement for deliveries
• Arrange to pick up packages at the local post office
• Install security cameras to monitor deliveries
• Set up an area where delivery drivers can hide packages (behind a large planter, for example)
— Source: Winnipeg Police Service
At least two Winnipeg locations — Sturgeon Heights Community Centre and Gorilla Jack — accept parcels if city residents pre-arrange to order their packages to the Silver Heights community hub or West Kildonan storefront.
The safe package delivery programs have popped up in response to growing concern about so-called porch pirates — thieves who stalk Canada Post trucks and snag packages from doorsteps.
While Winnipeg police say such thefts aren’t "a significant problem" in the city, neighbourhood Facebook groups are flooded with posts about package theft.
St. James resident Linda Smiley couldn’t resist Black Friday deals, but didn’t know where to get the packages delivered. Her home and workplace were out of the question, but what about the community centre?
It turns out the president of the Sturgeon Heights Community Centre wasn't alone in her thinking; the frustration of having no place to safely drop off packages felt by both she and other board members prompted them to create "a safe drop zone."
"That’s what a community club is supposed to be for — to help people out," Smiley said. "If more community clubs can do it for their community, I think it’d be great."
For a minimum donation of $2, anyone can call the centre on Rita Street to arrange a delivery and pickup. The proceeds support the centre’s week-long winter carnival in February 2020, Smiley said.
Things really picked up after Black Friday, and while there have been many holiday gifts delivered to the facility, facility manager Barry Chambers said one family purchased a living room loveseat and had it delivered to the community centre.
Chambers said that less than a month into the initiative, another community centre has inquired about it. The program has been so successful he said the centre might offer it all the time. At the same time, Chambers said the program has encouraged new people to stop by the club.
"They all thank us for it. It’s just a security blanket, so that way they know it’ll get here," he said. "We’re here all the time anyway."
"That’s what a community club is supposed to be for ‐ to help people out," Smiley said. "If more community clubs can do it for their community, I think it’d be great." – Linda Smiley, president of the Sturgeon Heights Community Centre
The community centre is normally staffed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Across town in West Kildonan, Bernard Pacak is running a similar initiative out of his store Gorilla Jack, an independent nutritional supplement outlet on Main Street.
Pacak got thinking about how he could protect his neighbours' presents after catching a thief in the act not long ago.
"I was walking my dog one day and literally saw a gentleman grab a parcel off the porch and I know that gentleman definitely doesn’t live there — he didn’t go inside the house," Pacak said. "I told him to put it down."
He said the thief then dropped it and took off.
Two months ago, he put a call out to Winnipeggers to get in touch with Gorilla Jack, get their packages delivered to the storefront and when notified by staff, pick up packages in exchange for a minimum $1 donation to the Main Street Project.
Approximately 150 people have used the service since the business began offering it, said Pacak. He’s made a couple of trips to the Main Street Project to drop off both cash and donations of socks.
"People really like it. They get a safe spot that they know is open, where they know they can come pick up any time. We own the building, I live upstairs — we’ve got a good security system," he said.
The Winnipeg Police Service doesn’t specifically track reports of porch pirates.
The force’s latest report, which charts crime between September 2018 and August 2019, indicates theft of property worth $5,000 or less is on a steady incline. Minor theft was up 62 per cent compared to the five-year average.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
Updated on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 7:04 PM CST: Changes credit on fact box