Stolen package leads to an uncommon apology and ‘lessons for everybody’

The Nextdoor app and website enable users to communicate with people who live nearby.
The Nextdoor app and website, which enable users to communicate with people who live nearby, was used to spread word about a package stolen from Chris Pham’s porch in La Jolla.

Packages stolen off porches are common, with word of many such thefts posted to online community sites like Nextdoor. La Jollan Chris Pham, however, found that his story had something less common: a happy ending.

Pham was at his Beach Barber Tract home June 29 and knew that two packages had been delivered. “We usually don’t scramble to the front porch to grab things when they’re delivered,” he said.

When he went to the porch a short time later to retrieve the packages, Pham, who had never experienced a package being stolen before, saw that one of the expected boxes was missing. He checked his security system video.

“Sure enough, I saw some people hopping over the fence, grabbing a box and then just taking off,” he said. The video showed “three younger kids who looked like they were in high school.”

Pham said the theft made him “pretty upset, because we were home, I was in the yard. I was within feet of them when they took [the package]. [It was] a feeling of violation.”

One of his neighbors saw the youths with the stolen box and confronted them. Pham said the neighbor told him there was a heated exchange with the boys and took a photo of them. “I know he was watching out,” Pham said.

Pham posted the video and still shots from it at around 5:30 p.m. that day to Nextdoor, which connects members of the same community to share information and ask questions.

“Anyone recognize these kids?” Pham wrote. “They thought it’d be a good idea to steal a package off our porch on a walk back from food. Confronted by a neighbor who took their photo along with what seems to be a rude exchange. We were home, even.”

The post generated several comments in a few hours.

Around 9:30 that night, Pham heard a knock on his door. He opened it and saw a man and his two sons.

“I recognized the bigger [son]; he was the guy in the video,” Pham said.

“’My son has something to talk to you about,’” Pham said the other man told him. “’He was the one who stole your package, and he feels really bad. He has some words.’”

Pham said the boy, who he later learned was a sophomore in high school, “was sobbing; he had to be 6-foot-5 and was just sobbing. He clearly was upset, probably scared. His dad was very gracious about it.”

Pham said the boy apologized, saying: “’It was a stupid thing. I just did it in the moment.’”

“It was a nice neighborly thing,” Pham said of the apology.

“I get it,” he told the boy, “I was in high school; I made decisions I wasn’t happy about. I’m glad that you’re here and we can move past it.”

Pham took the video and photos off Nextdoor and updated his post to read: “I just got a visit from the boy in the video and his family. Very nice visit with an apology. It was a bad decision moment and all is good now! Special thanks to his dad. ... Thanks for everyone’s help.”

Pham declined to provide details about the package, and it’s unclear what happened to it. He said the boy’s father gave him his contact information, though Pham couldn’t say whether he planned to replace the package or reimburse its cost.

The family could not be reached for comment.

The next day, Pham received a handwritten note from the boy, reiterating the apology and thanking Pham “for being so nice about the whole thing.”

Pham said the boy also included books to donate to Pham’s free library, a small stand outside his home where neighbors can take or leave books to read at their leisure.

Since the incident, Pham learned that the boy’s father works in a similar industry, and the two made plans to meet for coffee. Pham laughed at the unusual connection: “I’ve made a new friend out of it.”

Pham added that the theft and its resolution have led to discussions between him and his 6-year-old son. When the theft was first discovered, the boy “was upset; we had to explain to him: ‘This is why we don’t take things from other people. These things happen, people make bad decisions, but you could really hurt someone and upset them.’”

Pham said he talked to his son about how people would feel if he stole something from them and how he could make it right. He revisited the conversation after the teen’s apology.

“They made it right,” he told his son. “That’s what you would do if you made a bad decision; that’s what I would expect of you.”

Pham said perhaps the most important part of the story is that “a lot of lessons were learned for everybody in this. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.” ◆