An auto parts delivery driver from Queens has been arrested in connection with the theft of holiday packages from the front of homes in five Nassau communities, police said.
Peter Lee Dunbar, 24, was taken into custody Wednesday after police stopped him for not having a front license plate on the white van he was driving on Ocean Avenue in Malverne, said Lt. John Oddo of the Malverne Police Department.
Inside the van, officers found proceeds from several thefts, including toys and videos, Police Chief John Aresta said.
Dunbar was charged with thefts in Malverne, Rockville Centre, Valley Stream, Baldwin and Lynbrook, and with driving with a suspended license, Oddo said.
According to court records, Dunbar was being held in lieu of a $9,000 cash bail or a $13,500 bond following his arraignment Thursday in First District Court in Hempstead. He was due back in court on Monday.
Aresta said earlier this week that there had been five such thefts since Nov. 11, with the latest happening Dec. 1 in Malverne.
“We had some last year but not to this level,” said Aresta, whose department has taken the lead in publicizing the crimes by thieves sometimes called “porch pirates.”
He said Thursday that a Lynbrook theft was added to the list after a stolen package from that village was found in Dunbar’s van, and that there was also a call about a package being stolen in Elmont but no report had been filed.
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” Aresta said. “It’s very easy.”
Aresta said an investigation following the traffic stop found that Dunbar is a delivering driver employed by a subcontractor for an auto-parts store in the Bronx. The van Dunbar drove when police stopped him belongs to the subcontractor, Aresta said. The suspect’s job was to take auto parts back and forth between the Bronx and Rockville Centre, but he would have “an hour to a half-hour layover,” Aresta said.
“He would have time to drive around different neighborhoods and do his own shopping,” Aresta said.
Police said they had surveillance video of both Dunbar and the white Chevrolet van he drove during the thefts.
The videos showed a man walking up to houses as if he was making a delivery, but the box left behind was filled with garbage, used clothes or shoes, police said. He then leaves the front of the house with one of the other packages delivered earlier.
Aresta said a box from Amazon was found between seats in the van when Dunbar was pulled over. After police found Dunbar had a suspended license, Aresta said, they impounded the van and an inventory search yielded other proceeds.
“There was another box stolen from Malverne and another from Lynbrook,” Aresta said. Among the items contained in the stolen boxes, the police chief said, were toys, religious videos, fireplace logs and light bulbs. “I don’t think he got anything of real value.”
Oddo made the arrest along with Officer Anthony Castellano, Aresta said.
“All of my guys live here,” Aresta said, “so even when they were off-duty they were looking around for this guy.”
The chief warned that even though police had a suspect in custody, residents should not allow deliveries when no one is home if there is a possible alternative.
With Jim Staubitser
Tips for avoiding package thefts
Ways to prevent the theft of packages from outside homes, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service, Malverne and Suffolk police, and insurancequotes.com:
- Packages should be delivered to a stay-at-home neighbor or the resident’s workplace, where someone is available to receive them.
- Request the shipping company or the post office hold items until someone can pick them up.
- Provide USPS with personalized instructions. If a package doesn’t fit in a mailbox and no one will be home to receive it, provide delivery instructions online and authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified location by visiting MyUSPS.com.
- Lisa Irizarry