ANDOVER, Kan. (KWCH) Homeowners in an Andover neighborhood have their spirits lifted with a neighbor helping police identify and arrest a suspected package thief.
This time of year, thieves scope out neighborhoods throughout the area, paying attention to when holiday packages are delivered and pouncing on opportunities to play the role of Grinch, stealing the boxes off of front porches.
Andover police credit a neighbor for leading them to catch and arrest Rick Lewis Downey. They say he was going home-to-home in Andover's Cornerstone neighborhood Tuesday, stealing packages off people's doorsteps.
Neighbor Josh Brines said he called the police and described Downey, giving them the information needed to find the suspect.
Brines said he was first alerted to the presence of a porch pirate by a neighbor and mother of his daughter's friend.
"They noticed on their camera that somebody had taken it [a package], so that's when I thought I would go look for somebody," said Brines.
Brines said he saw someone acting suspiciously and was out of place and started following him. While he didn't see him go up to a porch but more casing homes, Brines said he learned from police the suspect had stashed several boxes he took from porches.
"We all work hard for our money, and this is a great neighborhood, and we all try to look out for each other," said Brines. "The fact that they [police] were able to get them back, that's what made me happy. My daughter's friend is like a daughter to me, and she was pretty upset and crying, and I didn't like to see that."
He added, "To me, it's really good because for all the criminal knows, they could be taking some little girls Barbie. To mean, that means more than anything that they could have their Christmas and not have somebody that really has no use for the packages taking them."
Package thefts are often tricky cases for police to solve Andover Police Lt. Michael Shinert says.
"Without the citizen's help, I'm not sure we would have caught anybody," Lt. Shinert says. "But by catching him, hopefully, we've prevented, who knows how many we've prevented, by taking him out."
Catching the suspected thief was a win, but adding to the good news for neighbors was that they got their stolen orders back.
"That's never the case, so that's a great story to hear," says Sparkle Jewelry and Watch Repair owner Tim Bolluch, who lives in the Cornerstone neighborhood and spends a lot of time away from home.
Bolluch says he has some peace of mind when he has packages delivered thanks to a doorbell security camera at his home, but he also tries to have most of his packages addressed to him at work.
"That's the best thing you can do is have it delivered where you're going to be at when the mailman arrives," he says. "That way, you can avoid the whole situation."
Tips from the Andover Police Department to protect online orders delivered to you include having packages delivered to your workplace --as Bolluch recommends -- trying to schedule the delivery for when you're home or have it delivered to a neighbor who will be home.
There are also Amazon lockers available that allow people in the Wichita area to pick up packages from a safe, secure location where it's held until you're able to get to it.