Take steps to stop porch pirates

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Perhaps more than ever this year, with fewer and smaller in-person gatherings, Christmas gifts will first arrive as a package in the mailbox or on one’s front porch. 

Some police agencies see a seasonal spike in thefts from “porch pirates” who make swipe packages off the porch.

To ward off porch pirates, police advise people to sign up for delivery alerts, require a signature if possible, arrange for post office pick-up, ask a trusted neighbor to pick up and keep a package temporarily, or have a package delivered to a workplace if allowed. No matter what, police say, people should avoid leaving unattended packages on the front porch for extended periods of time if at all possible.

Surveillance cameras can also be theft deterrent. In addition to simply providing a possible ID on a thief, various types of security cameras at your front door could have a motion-sensitive siren or can allow homeowners to remotely view their front porch and set off the alarm if necessary. Many times, police can share front-porch camera video footage on social media to help ID a thief.

Mail theft can also be an issue. To prevent mail theft, police advise residents to instead take outgoing mail to the local post office or drop it in a blue U.S. Postal Service collection box. For incoming mail, police urge people to pick up promptly after delivery or at least not leave it overnight. If you expect to receive something financial or otherwise valuable, perhaps ask trusted a friend or neighbor to pick up that mail.

One theft opportunity mostly unique to the season involves outdoor decorations, such as Christmas laser lights or lawn ornaments. Police have advised homeowners to set those decorations up with timers or simply turn them off and unplug them overnight, to make them less obvious to prospective thieves.

For those who do go out to shop this year, police remind people to park in well-lit areas if at night, lock your vehicle and have their keys ready when they reach their vehicle. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Inevitably, some people will make multiple stops in a single trip. To ward off becoming a theft victim there, police advise people to hide packages or gift bags in the trunk, cover them with a blanket or conceal them under a seat – anything to make them not visible. Hide spare cash or change and charging devices, as well. In general, don't make your vehicle a target, as thefts often are based on easy opportunities.

After Christmas, police say it would be good to not let expensive gifts be highly visible in windows. If you use curbside pickup, break down boxes from those gifts or not leave them easy to notice. Otherwise they can be advertisements for thieves.