‘Porch pirates’ have sights on your holiday packages; how to keep these thieves at bay

photo by: Contributed photo

This doorbell surveillance camera footage captured a so-called porch pirate stealing packages from the stoop of a home in southwest Lawrence on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. The homeowner called police and officers caught the man nearby.

A man walks up to a southwest Lawrence house in the middle of the afternoon, a large knife in his hand.

After sheathing the knife and freeing his hands, he stoops to pick up two boxes that had been delivered to the front door. Doorbell surveillance camera footage then shows him turning and carrying those packages off.

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year for these so-called “porch pirates,” thieves who prey on packages left unattended at people’s homes.

While the Lawrence Police Department doesn’t have specific statistics, they say this category of crime seems more prevalent in recent years as online ordering booms.

Sgt. Amy Rhoads suspects some porch pirates are conducting planned operations, while others are just taking advantage of low-hanging fruit.

“It is definitely a crime of opportunity,” Rhoads said. “They see something sitting there, it seems like it’s an easy take, and they go out and take it.”

Thanks to the doorbell camera and a fast-acting homeowner, the porch pirate on Coralberry Court did not get away with his loot on Tuesday afternoon.

The homeowner was alerted by a phone app connected to the motion-triggered camera on her porch. When she called police with a description of the man she’d just seen, officers headed over and caught a person matching that description — carrying a package — nearby, Rhoads said.

The man was detained, and also found to be in possession of suspected drugs and paraphernalia, Rhoads said. She said the stolen items were returned to their owner, and the man was released, at least for the time being, pending further investigation.

The homeowner said she was “livid” watching video of the man walking up to her front door then sauntering off with her stuff.

‘Porch pirate’ steals packages from Lawrence home

“SHAME on you!” she wrote in a Facebook post about the theft. “It is Christmastime and you have NO RIGHT to trespass on my property and take anything.”

The woman, who asked that her name not be used because of safety concerns, told the Journal-World via email that one of the two boxes the man took didn’t even have anything in it. It was the shipping box for her iPhone trade-in. Inside the larger box was an inexpensive child’s coat.

She’s not sure but thinks maybe the porch pirate was trailing the delivery vehicle, as he showed up just 4 minutes after the larger package was delivered. She guesses the knife was for slicing into boxes.

She’s a busy mom who generally shops online. She said she and her husband put in the doorbell camera this summer, and this was the first — and hopefully last — crime it had captured.

But, she said, she still has more holiday gifts on the way.

“I have irritatingly sacrificed hours this week diverting whatever packages I could away from my residence, obsessively checking my motion-triggered notifications and worrying over my sense of security for my neighbors’ families and mine,” she said.

Porch pirates find all kinds of ways to make use of the stuff they steal, Rhoads said.

They may sell it at pawn shops, sell it to other people, trade it for drugs or, depending where the item came from, return it to the store for refunds or gift cards.

Preventing porch piracy

Security measures like doorbell cameras are a great way to deter or help catch thieves and home burglars. The Lawrence Police Department also has these suggestions for keeping porch pirates away:

• If you’re not home during the day, have packages delivered to your work or to someone else.

• Request a signature on delivery. Drivers won’t leave the package if no one is home.

• If you’re tracking a package and see it’s due to arrive when you’re not home, reroute it to another place or reschedule delivery for another time of day.

• For packages containing something valuable, consider having those packages insured.

• Keep an eye on your whole neighborhood, looking out for suspicious activity or people. “Get out and get to know your neighbors,” Sgt. Amy Rhoads said. “You can look out for one another.”

• Especially if you plan to be gone or out of town, don’t let packages, mail or newspapers pile up — some thieves may take things a step further than the porch. “That’s a red flag for people who are looking to burglarize your home,” Rhoads said. “Generally, they’re looking for homes that appear not to be occupied.”

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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