Hayward police stage bait package, catch thief

With the holidays approaching, criminals aren't thinking twice about swiping boxes outside homes. 

Surveillance video from two such cases in the East Bay this week had two very different outcomes. 

KTVU obtained video from a Union City resident that shows someone stealing two packages left outside that were meant to be picked up by a U.S. postal worker. 

The thief had no qualms about taking the boxes even as security cameras and a warning sign were clearly visible near the front door.

“I noticed a person that didn’t look like my usual USPS driver coming toward my packages and grabbing them and going away,” says Frank, who didn't want his full name used. 

He says he was home and witnessed the theft as it was happening in broad daylight, at about 1:00 p.m. Monday. Frank rushed outside and one of the videos shows him running after the thieves as they take off in a green Honda Accord. 

"I kind of said 'hey you!' and they just looked at me and 'whatever' and they just drove away,” Frank said.

But in a second incident this week, Hayward police released surveillance video showing suspect Lam Van Lam stealing a package secretly outfitted with a GPS tracking device. 

Officers stopped Lam nearby and arrested him Wednesday after they found him in a car filled with stolen property, including a teddy bear taken from a home in Fremont.

Some officials say bait packages like those used by Hayward and Campbell police can be useful in the short run, but may not help if the thieves swipe again and again. They say arrests for package theft can be challenging.  

“These are crimes of opportunity,” said Union City police Sgt. Steve Mendez. “They just happen and especially this time of year, where everybody's getting stuff sent to them - including myself - and there's not very much that we can do, other than try to catch them red-handed, and that happens not very frequently." 

Frank, though, says he supports these tactics. 

"I think it's a great idea, because we need to teach these people a lesson. I believe it is a federal crime to steal mail. They need to know it’s not OK to just steal a package,” he said.