Camera spots Grinch

Christmas is over, but Pierce County sheriff's detectives are intent on arresting the Grinch.

That’s what they call the ringleader of a group that recently followed UPS and FedEx trucks so they could steal just-delivered packages from porches in Gig Harbor and county pockets of the Key Peninsula.

At least 11 homes were hit, though detectives say several more victims have not yet filed reports.

“We’re looking for the Grinch,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. “They were following trucks around, watching them make deliveries and stealing the packages. Some of these were Christmas presents for children.”

Last Thursday, a 35-year-old woman was taken into custody and several stolen items were recovered from her vehicle and home.

Detectives have identified three other suspects, including the alleged Grinch, and are trying to find them.

Andrew “A.J.” Montgomery and his wife, Kristie, were among those who had a package stolen.

Kristie’s parents had alerted her to watch for a package, but when it didn’t arrive within several days, they checked online and found UPS said it had been delivered Dec. 15.

The family has cameras installed outside their Gig Harbor home, so Andrew scrolled through the shots until he found one of a deliveryman placing a package on the porch.

A few shots later, he saw a red sport utility vehicle pull into the driveway and a woman with a canvas bag approach. The next photo showed her walking away – with something in the bag.

“We thought we’d never figure out who did it,” Andrew Montgomery said.

They filed a police report online and dismissed the incident.

But during holiday gatherings, they learned that neighbors and friends also had lost packages that should have been delivered.

And then Andrew came home one day and spotted a deliveryman in the neighborhood. He showed him the photo of the package thief and said he should be on the lookout for the woman.

The driver said he recognized her as someone who’d been suspected of stealing packages last year. So the Montgomerys passed their photos on to detectives.

They’d noticed the rash of thefts and were canvassing criminal files of those who have a history of stealing packages. They gathered vehicle descriptions and suspect information and began piecing it together.

The woman in the photo – who was investigated but not arrested last year in connection with package thefts – was caught this year prowling a Gig Harbor neighborhood, Troyer said.

Gifts recovered from her home are being sorted and will be returned to their owners, he said.

The bathrobe shipped by Kristie Montgomery’s parents wasn’t among the gifts, and the family doesn’t expect to ever see it. But they’re grateful they didn’t lose more valuable items.

And they’re tickled that their photos helped nab people who were stealing holiday cheer.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653 stacia.glenn@thenewstribune.com