SANTA MARIA, Calif. - In an unassuming and unmarked Crown Victoria, Sergeant Russel Mengel and reporter Melissa Newman embark on a mission to find the people who have been ruining the holidays for dozens by stealing packages.
"It's been a well known fact that package thieves will follow these trucks and as soon as they drop them off thieves will come through right behind them and pick those packages up and ruin someone's Christmas," explains Sgt. Mengel.
In fact, even Sergeant Mengel's home has been targeted by these thieves.
"I had a package of my own stolen this year from the mailbox and it was disappointing; it was a Christmas gift and so we had to start all over. The financial loss associated with it could be devastating to especially many families in this community; it's a hard working community, many families don't have a lot of money," Mengel says.
Street by street and neighborhood by neighborhood we searched for and followed UPS, FedEx and US Postal Service trucks delivering packages.
Ultimately, we didn't apprehend any criminals but there were some safety take-aways to learn for next year.
"Take a look at your mail - does it have the ability to be locked, can the postal service or another package transporter be able to drop the package in and lock it and secure it? It makes our job so much easier if we're not having to chase down these package thieves. It makes for a better holiday for everyone," Mengel tells us.
Saturday will be the last day of SMPD's patrols like this one and then they will shift next week to monitoring retail stores as people begin to return their unwanted gifts.