Holiday package theft may rise as deliveries increase

Home and doorbell security cameras helpful in prevention

Credit: Journal-News Staff

Credit: Journal-News Staff

‘Tis the season for gift shopping ordering and theft, and there are plenty of opportunistic thieves looking for a way to ruin the season by pirating delivered packages from porches and door steps.

A recent study indicated package theft is likely to surge during this holiday season as a record $207 billion in online holiday shopping is expected to increase deliveries, according to CCTV Camera World.

In 2020, 20 billion parcels were shipped in the U.S. and a survey found 43 percent of Americans had a package stolen, according to the report. Supply chain issues and the pandemic is expected to cause even more issues this holiday shopping season, so protecting purchases from theft is a must.

Butler County law enforcement say they have not yet seen an uptick in reported “porch pirates” but say it is likely coming. Although many say parcel theft is a year round occurrence due to the prevalence of online ordering of everything from groceries to televisions.

“This used to be a more cyclical concern with the holidays, but now people order stuff online all the time. It happens no more at the holidays really than other times of the year,” said Barb Wilson, West Chester Twp. spokeswoman.

While there hasn’t been an uptick in reports to law enforcement yet, social media is full of nearly daily complaints of theft incidents. Police say taking precautions is a good idea to make sure you are not a victim.

“When ordering from Amazon, consider using one of the pickup lockers around town or give special delivery instructions to take packages to the back of your house. If you can have packages delivered to a place where people are present to receive that’s also a good idea,” Wilson said.

In Fairfield, Sgt. Becky Ervin said officers deal with parcel theft sporadically and home security devices are very helpful when investigating.

“An officer will take an initial report, do a neighborhood canvas, check the area for cameras, and gather any information from the sender. Security cameras at the home help tremendously and people can use smart package lockers,” Ervin said.

West Chester residents are encouraged to register their cameras with police to support investigations of neighborhood crimes.

Doorbell cameras can also be a deterrent, according to police.

Middletown Sgt. Earl Nelson said with the advent of doorbell cameras, porch thefts has not been as prevalent at past years.

“They realize they may be on camera,” Nelson said, but added it is still early in the shopping season, so the crimes are likely to increase in the coming weeks.

If photos are obtained by a resident of the suspect, placing them on social media has been very useful in helping detectives nap perpetrators, he said.

Nelson said with many delivery services, you can get text notifications and photos for when a package has been delivered. It is best to have someone trusted retrieve the package as soon as the delivery is received or try to schedule deliver when you will be home.

The value of an item taken from the porch matters. Anything valued at less than $1,000 is misdemeanor theft and it rises to a felony theft charge if it is more than $1,000, according to police. It is likely not a crime punishable by a lengthy jail stay.

Depending on what kind of package is stolen, people can usually notify the retailer and see if they will offer any type of refund or replacement. Filing a police report is also a good idea.

Hamilton Officer Kristy Collins said, “All year round, especially during this time of year, it is best to have deliveries require signatures, add special delivery instructions or consider an alternate delivery location to make sure that your packages are not stolen.”

A few tips to prevent package theft:

  • Use tracking and text alerts: Most carriers, including Amazon, UPS and FedEx, will text text when a package has been delivered. Retrieve the package quickly after it is delivered.
  • Install home security cameras: They are a deterrent and can successfully identify thieves in the act.
  • Control the shipping location: If you know you will not be home at the time of delivery, have the package shipped to work, to a secured locker or to a neighbor who is home to receive it. Consider scheduling delivery for a day you will be home.

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