Holiday shopping online? Beware of porch pirates

Preventing holiday package thefts

Some call them “porch pirates.” The thieves who take a package right off your front porch.

These criminals may follow delivery trucks and mail carriers. With more and more people shopping online this holiday season, you could be a prime target.

"I think just knowing that someone is on your property and is close to your front door and is taking things that don't belong to them, it just feels like a violation," said Kym Cooper of North Austin.

She said her neighbors work together, watching out for packages as they're delivered.

"I know that myself if I'm out walking my dog and I see packages on my neighbors porch and I know that they're out of town, we'll just pick them up and take them home with me and then text the neighbor and let them know that I have their goods," said Cooper.

According to the neighborhood app Next Door, 42 percent of their users surveyed said they've had a package stolen. Sixty-one percent said they didn't have a package delivered to their home because they were worried about someone taking it.

What about those security cameras that capture so many of these thieves in the act?

Georgetown Police Assistant Chief Cory Tchida calls the cameras "invaluable," saying they can help provide a person and vehicle description to track down a thief. He said it also helps confirm that a package was in fact delivered.

With the price points of surveillance cameras going down in the past few years, Tchida said they’ve seen an increase in the number of people installing them.

There’s also a new type of camera attached to your door bell. Someone rings the bell, and you get an alert on your cell phone. You can then “answer” remotely, which Tchida said can help in deterring thieves, since it will appear that someone is home.

Round Rock Police Detective Will Trevillion said they haven’t seen any porch package thefts so far this year, but said property crime tends to spike around the holiday season.

Trevillion said part of the problem is the amount of things people can order online these days. Years ago, you knew to look out for a package on one specific day. Now he said people are getting things almost every day, increasing the odds of someone stealing the items.

To deter thieves, Trevillion suggested displaying a security camera near your front door. Whether it works or not, he said the sight of a visible camera can deter some criminals.

If you have a security camera, he said the newer models are typically more helpful in catching a thief. The images tend to be more clear. He also said homeowners should check their camera gear, make sure it is clean, clear, and still working.

He also stressed the importance of making sure the front of your home is well lit. Neighbors might be able to see suspicious activity if the area has a lot of light.

If you see someone steal something, Trevillion said it’s important to get a license plate number.

Austin Police confirmed to KVUE that home security systems can help when tracking down a thief. They said it’s important to make sure the camera is pointed at the front door where the packages are commonly left.

They also said a neighborhood watch group can help prevent and solve thefts.

Finally, they suggest considering an alternative destination for your shipment, like to a friend who is home, or workplace, so someone can accept the delivery.

All the departments said they don’t track “porch package theft” specifically, but instead lump it into the “theft” column.

In a TEGNA investigation, where they surveyed 86 convicted thieves, the criminals said the cameras signaled to them that there were valuables inside the home.

To prevent holiday theft from your porch, police suggest you:

-Schedule a delivery time
-Schedule an alert for when the package is delivered
-Send the package to a location where someone will be there like work
-Or to a local store for pick up
-You can also require a signature for confirmation of the delivery.
 

(© 2016 KVUE)


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