Nassau County police arrested an alleged serial package snatcher last week, after detectives say he took deliveries from the doorsteps of seven homes, including five in Rockville Centre.
Joseph Ravenell, 26, of Hempstead, was charged with seven counts of petit larceny, also allegedly stealing packages from a house in Oceanside, and one in South Hempstead. Police said that surveillance footage showed Ravenell taking the packages and placing them into a maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo. He was arraigned on Feb. 16 at First District Court in Hempstead.
Ravenell snatched the last package on Cedar Street in South Hempstead at about 1:48 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, police told the Herald. The owner of the home, who asked not to be identified, said that he called Nassau County Police when he discovered the man stealing a package from his porch on video from two surveillance cameras outside his house. He added that he and his family were not home at the time. Inside the package, he said, was a small electronic device valued at about $20.
“Thanks to the diligence of the Nassau County Police Department and Rockville Centre Police Department, he was apprehended,” the man said.
But not all packages contained inexpensive items. A Harvard Avenue resident reported to police that day that the packages stolen from his or her stoop were valued at about $850, according to the village’s weekly crime report. The homeowner did not answer their door on Monday when the Herald sought further information.
Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Charles Gennario said his department assisted Nassau Police in the investigation, using license plate readers to track down the suspect. After obtaining a search warrant, he said, police discovered the packages in Ravenell’s home days later, and reported his arrest on Feb. 16.
Gennario added that all packages were returned to the homeowners. “We actually notified some of our residents,” he said, “…because they didn’t even know they were missing.”
Another package, containing cosmetics, was reportedly stolen on Feb. 16 from a home on Wright Road as part of a separate incident, according to the crime report. Gennario said stolen delivered packages is a common problem throughout the county, but is not especially frequent in Rockville Centre. He added that it is more prevalent during the holiday season when online shopping sales peak.
“This happened to be a crime of opportunity,” Gennario said of the package-stealing spree, noting that he believed its occurrence on Valentine’s Day was coincidental. “The guy was going around looking for packages.”
Gennario also warned against identity theft, during which people will send packages to the homes of someone whose identity they have stolen, and pick them up while they are out. “We had people sitting and waiting for deliveries,” he said. “…They go there, they know you’re not home, they’ll take your stuff. It takes awhile to catch up with that information, but we’ve had instances of that.”
Surveillance cameras can help stop these crimes, Gennario explained, adding that he always recommends web-based surveillance to new businesses that move to the village. Such footage can be monitored or obtained by police if a suspected crime takes place, even if the business owners cannot immediately be reached.
In this case, the Cedar Street resident’s footage helped the investigation, Nassau police said.
“If it was up to me, I’d have cameras all over the village,” Gennario said. “Not to spy on people, but [so] when an incident occurs, we can go back and trace it.”