Police Cracking Down On Package Theft, Especially Around The Holidays

Online buying has become more and more popular due to convenience and the ability to access to products around the globe that may not be at the local mall or department store. Around the holidays, this form of buying has become the selection to many over the usual mall madness that was a part of the holidays season in years prior.

Due to more and more consumers turning to online buying, this means an obvious increase in the number of deliveries and also has led to more “porch pirates” taking advantage of this fact and getting to the packages left, before homeowners and buyers of the products get to their purchases.

These porch pirates often follow delivery vans inconspicuously- usually Fed Ex and UPS- while often wearing a uniform that helps them to look the part. The Los Angeles Times notes the way customers’ buying habits are making this petty form of theft more prevalent.

“Customers are increasingly using Amazon, eBay and other retailers to buy goods they previously purchased in stores — especially around Christmas, when UPS delivers more than 30 million packages per day in the week before the holiday.The problem is that many of those packages end up on unattended doorsteps, unlocked mailboxes and stoops. All this curbside commerce has created a new class of criminal dedicated to pilfering as many packages as possible.”

Due to heightened security at department stores and shopping centers these days, pirating porches has become an easier form of petty theft, and putting a halt to this form of crime has proven to be a difficult task. However, efforts have been made by some police departments to conduct operations involving leaving a package with a GPS tracker inside it hoping to lure thieves. Residents have also begun installing camera systems that can capture any crimes, yet such tactics have done little to prevent the thefts from occurring.

Officials have seen an increase of this form of theft around the holiday season, with one security service company estimating that around 11 million people nationwide have been victims of this form of petty theft, having packages stolen. The thieves manage to blend in and appear causal as they stake out their next porch to pirate.

Richard Lee, a detective in South Pasadena, spoke about such crimes, stating, “It is the season for package thieves. It is a crime of the holiday season. We get a lot of them caught on camera. But the setback of the houses means it’s often hard to see the license plates of the getaway car.”

Although recordings can be helpful to investigators, Lee states that they are only useful when cameras are aimed properly. However, it is when a license plate is captured that authorities get the best leads on a thief’s identity.

New home security devices are also helpful to ensure homeowners are protected, such as Doorman, an app that notifies when a package is delivered and smart doorbells which sends live video of visitors to your phone.

“The reality is if you’re a delivery driver, you will try to do the best you can to conceal a package, but you’ve got so many deliveries to make,” Lee said.

Although such thefts increase around the holidays, they are an ongoing issue year round. Many police departments have used creativity to attempt to put a stop to such crimes.

A recent example, which occurred on December 4, indicates how police are working to combat the issue.

“… a large package sat invitingly on the doorstep of a home on Lyndon Way in Arcadia, Calif. Police say Joseph Kamal, 40, and Cristhyn Amador, 21, walked up, grabbed the package and took off. A short distance away, officers detained the pair. Inside the box was a GPS tracker, Arcadia Police Sgt. Brett Bourgeous said.”

The officer went on to state “It notifies us the minute the package is lifted, and we can track it. It is very accurate. We have a team in place ready to swoop down on the suspects.”

The investigators on the case then arrested Kamal and Amador on suspicion of grand theft and the possession of a controlled substance. This operation was one of a handful that the police department had conducted over the past month. Such stings have led to roughly 120 arrests this year, Bourgeous says.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]