Fitler Square package thief – an old guy on a bike-share?

ONE WEEK AGO, a man with close-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair wearing a bright yellow T-shirt glided past a rowhouse on South 26th Street in Fitler Square pedaling a blue bike-share cruiser. 

Watch his neck.

He was scouting the front door of the two-story home as he continued up the street.

Five seconds passed; the United States flag hanging from the house's brick facade fluttered. Fifteen seconds passed; the leaves on the sidewalk tree gently met the breeze.

Oh, look who's back!

Kevin Seto, 30, has had packages stolen from his front door before; this time he made sure there would be evidence. A Los Angeles native, he and his wife moved to Philly two years ago after he enrolled in a dental residency at the University of Pennsylvania.

He was working that day. His wife and 3-week-old son, however, were home when the man rolled up to their steps in broad daylight, wearing the most conspicuous shirt imaginable.

A year or so ago, Seto bought a fancy road bike, parked it against the house and locked it up. Within 48 hours, the bike was gone. He found the bolt cutters down the street.

Five other packages in that time frame also vanished. A bike light, a rear fender, and a seat cover were stolen off his second bike. Frustrated, he installed a cigarette carton-shaped camera above his front door.

Must be a cocky kid, he shrugged, or a drug addict.

Two weeks ago, he was expecting a delivery. A web-based tracking system notified him that his latest purchase was dropped at his stoop. But when he got home and pulled open the glass storm door, the parcel wasn't there. This is a new era for city stoops: holding delivery packages. If people were wary of putting out ornaments that might be stolen in years past, now they have to worry that their Amazon shipment could be gone.

So Seto checked the surveillance video. To his surprise, the grubby fingers that snagged his shipment belonged to an older man in a bright yellow tee straddling a clunky blue bicycle.

Well, at least he closed the door.

After the man in the bright yellow shirt pedaled away, residents of a townhouse a few blocks away stumbled upon the empty box and returned it to Seto's house. They apparently have encountered similar problems, as have Seto’s neighbors.

Such victims rarely file police reports, as Seto did in this case. Police say it's hard to investigate package thefts because they tend to be isolated incidents. Sometimes around Christmas, a serial thief will leave enough clues to lead to an arrest, according to Officer Christine O’Brien, a police spokeswoman.

In Seto's case, O’Brien said, having the surveillance tape could very well lead to an arrest. Seto has already posted the video on Reddit, and O'Brien said police would distribute it this week as well.

The package contained a child car-seat cover, an accessory Seto ordered online for $30. But it wasn't the value of the item that upset him.

It was the invasion of privacy.

"The fact that he opened my door to take it out," Seto said, "it's scary to think about."


About this Series:
Some Philadelphians spend summers lounging down the Shore, and others spend it sitting on their Stoops. This weekly series, about the places and ways Philadelphians gather, aims to tell the kinds of summer stories started or shared among neighbors. These are city stories that perpetuate long traditions, or cast a wary eye toward new trends. These are your stories, which are quintessentially, and unapologetically, Philly.