Let’s be honest: It wasn’t that hard finding a Cyber Monday deal on your smartphone and clicking “order.” So much so that retailers reported a record $9.4 billion in sales for the one-day bonanza this week.
Now, as those packages arrive on doorsteps, a growing breed of thieves – known as porch pirates – have just as easy of a time plucking those Amazon boxes in broad daylight from stoops and front porches, Northern California law enforcement agencies warn.
“Are you excited for all of your Cyber Monday purchases to start showing up? You aren’t the only one! ‘Porch Pirates’ are excited too!” the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office said in a social media post. “We strongly encourage you to take measures to protect your arriving packages.”
This week, nearly 300 Amazon packages were stolen from an Amador County Post Office while it was closed on a weekend. Neighborhood apps, such as Nextdoor and Neighbor by Ring, are filled with videos showing people snatching packages from front porches.
“During this time, (package theft) is one particular crime we see an uptick in,” said Officer Jason Jimenez, spokesman for the Elk Grove Police Department. “But often people don’t report package theft.”
Roseville Police said it had received four reports of package theft since Nov. 1, but that doesn’t mean its not more frequent. It’s just not being reported.
To combat these crimes during the holiday season, local law enforcement agencies have stepped up enforcement efforts. Among them, Citrus Heights Police announced Wednesday an arrest stemming from a bait package operation, and Elk Grove Police announced the launch of Operation Grinch in which officers will be planting bait packages and patrolling neighborhoods in unmarked cars looking for suspicious behavior.
Tips to combat porch pirates
A new report by C+R Research says 36 percent of Americans surveyed have reported having a package stolen at least once, and that’s changing habits. In the same survey of 2,000 consumers, 50 percent of shoppers said they plan to stay home when they are expecting a package. But for those who can’t wait around, here are some options to consider:
Video systems: Doorbells like those sold by Ring and Nest cost as low as $99 (plus monthly fees to save the videos), and are less pricey than complete video surveillance systems. While they can’t stop packages from being swiped, they can provide useful evidence to law enforcement for catching crooks, and help in recovering refunds from the retailer or shipper.
Delivery keys: Another high-tech solution is an entry device for the delivery service, such as Amazon Key or Walmart InHome Delivery, which allow access inside homes, garages and even cars. But for some these come with a cost, both financially and in peace of mind that someone else can get inside your home.
Lockers: Law enforcement agencies recommend using lockers offered by various delivery services, such as Amazon Hub Lockers, which are placed at secure locations like grocery stores. Recipients get an email or notification with a special code to open the box.
Lockboxes: Homeowners could choose to buy and install lockboxes on their property, similar to apartment mailboxes and post office boxes. Certain lockboxes have smart features that can notify users when packages have arrived. These, too, are not fail-safe and can be tampered with just like shared mailboxes in some residential communities.
Signatures and special requests: Some delivery services will allow recipients to designate signature requirements with deliveries, usually through their online services. UPS, for example, offers My Choice, which lets addressees pick their preferences for each delivery. Special instructions, like hoisting a box over a fence or leaving it with a neighbor, can usually be left when placing an order as well.
Holding packages: The Postal Service offers “Hold for Pickup” options for some of its deliveries, allowing recipients to collect packages at their post office. This can be done using the “Intercept a Package” feature at USPS.com. Delivery companies also offer to hold packages at their respective stores, such as FedEx Office or the UPS Store, using their websites and apps.
Set delivery times and places: Recipients can customize delivery times and places using UPS or FedEx’s websites, too. In UPS’ My Choice app, customers can have packages delivered to a neighbor or delivery point. With FedEx’s Delivery Manager, packages can be directed another address or to a FedEx location or Walgreens store. Usually, all you need to set these up are the packages’ tracking number.
What to do if your package is stolen
If you believe your package is stolen, make sure to check with the shipping carrier first in case it might have been delayed, according to Amazon customer service. This can be done using any of the carriers’ websites or apps, provided you have the tracking number.
Do a thorough search around your property to make sure it wasn’t left in a hidden spot. Amazon, UPS, FedEx and other delivery services have in-app notifications to tell you when a package has arrived. Some even include a picture of where the package was dropped off.
Then, if it was indeed stolen, report it to police, Elk Grove’s Jimenez said.
If you capture video of the theft via a digital doorbell or security camera, you can share it with police because “it gives us way more information for identifying suspects,” Jimenez added.
Filing a police report online
Here are quick links to filing a claim with your area’s law enforcement agency:
Citrus Heights Police Department: https://citrusheights.net/247/Online-Crime-Reporting-Form
Elk Grove Police Department: http://www.elkgrovepd.org/online_reporting
Folsom Police Department: https://www.folsom.ca.us/police/contact_us/report_a_crime.asp
Galt Police Department: http://www.ci.galt.ca.us/city-departments/police-department/services/report-a-crime
Rancho Cordova Police Department: https://www.ranchocordovapd.com/contact/report-a-crime
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.sacsheriff.com/Pages/Services/ReportCrimeInfo.aspx
Sacramento Police Department: https://www.cityofsacramento.org/Police/How-Do-I/File-a-Police-Report
Sacramento State Police Department: Call 916-278-6000
EL DORADO COUNTY
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.edcgov.us/Government/sheriff/Online%20Services/Pages/file_an_online_report.aspx
Placerville Police Department: Call 530-642-5280
South Lake Tahoe Police Department: https://cityofslt.us/647/File-A-Report
Auburn Police Department: Call 530-823-4234
Lincoln Police Department: Call 916-645-4040
Placer County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.placer.ca.gov/2298/Online-Crime-Reporting
Rocklin Police Department: Call 916-625-5400
Roseville Police Department: https://www.roseville.ca.us/cms/One.aspx?portalId=7964922&pageId=15587092
Davis Police Department: https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/police-department/online-crime-reporting
UC Davis Police Department: https://police.ucdavis.edu/online-crime-reporting
West Sacramento Police Department: Call 916-372-3375
Winters Police Department: Call 530-795-4561
Woodland Police Department: https://www.cityofwoodland.org/525/File-a-Report
Yolo County Sheriff’s Department: Call 530-666-8282
Where to file a claim
If a package is stolen, be sure to include a police report when filing your claim with a retailer or shipper. Be sure to include supporting evidence, such as videos, photos or messages from the service. File claims at:
Post Office: https://www.usps.com/help/claims.htm