Grinch steals Christmas from Lakewood residents

Items intended as Christmas gifts for my family were apparently stolen from my house on Merl Avenue in the second week of this past December.

Last month I discovered that two items I ordered online were listed as delivered to my home by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 12. When I discovered that the packages were missing, I first thought they could have been delivered to the wrong address. I sent letters to my neighbors, asking if anyone received the packages by mistake and requesting that they return them.

I also called the Lakewood post office to inquire whether the items were possibly delivered to the wrong address, but the post office insisted that my regular mailman had left the items on my porch. I found this odd, as I was home at the time the post office claims they were delivered, and my regular mailman always rings the doorbell when he has packages to deliver. That didn't happen the day the items were delivered.

Then I began contacting the merchants and my credit card company and filed a police report and claim with the USPS. Meanwhile, I faced a dilemma. One of the missing items was a box containing three pairs of men's jeans designed specifically for my younger brother, Jason, who has Down Syndrome. The pants were tailor-made to fit Jason by Downs Designs, a store in Mentor that makes clothing for people with Down Syndrome. Individuals with Down Syndrome have unique physiques and often have difficulty finding clothing, especially pants, that fit properly. Jason has been wearing sweat pants for years, and this Christmas, my mother and I decided to order jeans for him as a Christmas present.

While investigating the missing packages, I knew I had to replace my order, or my brother may not have his Christmas present. Jason was aware that the jeans had been ordered for him for Christmas, and I knew he would be disappointed if I had to tell him that his present was stolen. I re-ordered the jeans to be made right away and made arrangements to pick them up this time from the store in Mentor. Unfortunately, the store would not replace them for free, despite the fact that the store did not offer signature confirmation or insurance for the package, and most merchants will usually replace lost or stolen orders.

The USPS offers up to $50 in insurance for items shipped via Priority Mail. But it can take a while to investigate and pay out these claims, and my purchase was worth $180. It might take up to 90 days for my credit card company to handle the stolen merchandise dispute.

I was out a lot of money at a time of the year when money was already tight. I'm really disappointed in how this has been handled.

I've learned a lot from the experience and I'm leery about ordering items online to be shipped to my home in the future.

Be very careful and wise about how you have items shipped to your home. Insist on signature confirmation and insurance for valuable, time-sensitive items. It may seem inconvenient if you have to go to the post office to retrieve your package, but it's much more of a hassle to deal with filing all of the necessary claims if your item is lost or stolen.

I am very pleased by the support I received from our police department. I believe our police officers take it personally when something like this happens in Lakewood. They were as disappointed as I am. However, the police department said most people don't come forward to report package thefts. It's really important to file a police report, as our police department needs to know when things like this are happening in the community so they can increase patrols and keep an eye on suspicious behavior. It only takes a few minutes to file a report.

I want to encourage my fellow Lakewood residents to look out for their neighbors, especially during the holidays.

Pay attention to your neighbors' homes when they get deliveries. If someone else's mail is delivered to you by accident, please take it to its rightful owner and ask the post office to look into why items are being misdelivered. It only takes a minute to walk someone's mail over to them.

Above all, I'm saddened by this incident, and similar incidents that have been happening in surrounding suburbs.

You never know what someone is going through that would make them steal from other people during the holidays. I try to imagine what difficulties they may have, and hope that whatever they are going through passes so they don't have to steal from other people. But it's really disheartening to think that someone took my brother's present, and I can't imagine his tailor-made jeans will be of use to anyone else. I don't know many people who have a 21-inch inseam.

Amy Swinderman is a freelance journalist and Cleveland native who has lived in Lakewood since 2010. She also works as a school crossing guard for Lincoln Elementary School.

Amy Swinderman

I am a freelance journalist and Cleveland native who has lived in Lakewood since 2010. I also work as a school crossing guard.

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Volume 11, Issue 1, Posted 8:23 AM, 12.18.2014