Area residents can help police do a better job giving protection from front-porch package thieves by taking precautions this Christmas season.
The precautions some police officials suggest vary in price from free to comparatively costly. But they could lessen the chances thieves strike amid the public’s heightened interest in having retailers mail items directly to their homes during the ongoing pandemic.
Suggestions range from doorbell cameras and lock boxes, to seeking neighbors’ assistance to curb porch package thefts.
“It’s a quick, easy theft for criminals to take advantage of,” said Capt. Ken Malcom of the Covington Police Department.
A survey by personal finance website ValuePenguin.com earlier this year showed 18% of Americans had experienced package thefts between March and July 2020; and more than half of those surveyed reported multiple packages stolen since July 2019.
It also showed:
• Americans lost an average of $106 to porch piracy, with those 75 years and older losing the most at an average of $210 since mid-2019.
• Four out of every 10 thefts happened in apartment buildings while 25% of thefts happened at duplex buildings.
• A majority of stolen packages were delivered by Amazon while groceries delivered by services like Instacart decreased during the first months of the pandemic despite an increase in their usage.
• About 30% of package theft victims did not get all of their money back, and less than half of victims said the thief was caught.
• The most common precautions included signing up for tracking notifications and installing doorbell cameras; while requiring signatures upon delivery and purchasing package delivery insurance were not as common.
• Yet, one out of every three consumers had taken no action to prevent package thefts within the past year.
The incidence of thefts has decreased somewhat this year apparently because of more awareness of the danger of losing packages, according to information from local sources.
Malcom said his department sometimes would place decoy packages on front porches to help locate a suspect.
City officers also try to watch for delivery trucks in their zones — amid their other duties and calls — to see if thieves are following the trucks from house to house.
However, he said it was difficult for officers to know if someone following a delivery truck was in a neighborhood for legitimate reasons.
High-quality camera systems and tag readers can give police clues they need to catch thieves, Malcom said.
For example, he said officers earlier this year were able to use the information they received from a video and tag reader device to track some dog thieves to Atlanta where they recovered the animal, he said.
“When we have the tools, it gives us what we need to stop this from happening,” Malcom said.
Chief Jason Cripps of the Porterdale Police Department said in cities with smaller
police departments, such as Porterdale, officers generally are not able to watch individual houses as trucks roll through neighborhoods.
Cripps said residents can help officers locate thieves by installing doorbell cameras, which are relatively inexpensive and the signal can be sent directly to a cellphone.
He said another option is installing a lock box available from home improvement stores that can be bolted to the structure.
However, the boxes can be limited in size and not hold very large items, Cripps noted.
Some employers also may be willing to serve as the receiving address for their employees’ packages, Cripps noted.
He suggested residents be proactive about meeting their neighbors — which he admitted is no longer common.
Malcom also suggested more common-sense actions like not leaving packages out for extended periods of time and regularly checking delivery points.