Be aware of Porch Pirates and other thieves this holiday season

LAWRENCE CO. – The holiday season is in full swing and while most people are worried about shopping for holiday gifts, what we should really be concerned about is securing these gifts away from potential thieves.

Sometimes referred to as a “porch pirate”, these thieves target packages, delivered at a home or business and left outside unsecured. Additionally, thieves are known to target vehicles as shoppers drop off bags from one store and go to the next.

According to a recent survey, 29% of Americans have experienced theft from their porch. These porch pirates are responsible for roughly $20 million worth of thefts every year in the United States.

When you leave a store, you must pay attention to your surroundings, by watching for anyone suspicious. If you notice someone following you or making you feel uncomfortable, go back inside the store and alert security. Reporting questionable people hanging around the shop might also protect other shoppers from being victimized.

Once you get to your car, lock your purchases in your trunk. If you have an SUV, consider installing a retractable cargo cover to hide items from view. Try not to leave any items or packages out in the open.

Chief Deputy Gregg Taylor

“Thieves often look for targets of opportunity, something easy to steal,” said Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Gregg Taylor.

If you buy expensive gifts, be careful how you dispose of the empty boxes. 

“Thieves might see those boxes outside your house and interpret them as signals of recent purchases that would make breaking into your home worthwhile,” Chief Deputy Taylor added.

You should try to avoid throwing away shopping receipts, without first shredding them if possible. If thieves go through your trash and find your receipts, they can see what you have recently bought.

“Thieves will sometimes visit homes before breaking into them as a way to scope them out,” added Chief Deputy Taylor. “Be cautious with any strangers that show up at your door, and never let a stranger come inside your house.”

Many homeowners like to show off their Christmas tree and decorations to their neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is another way for thieves to see the presents inside your house. 

“If your Christmas tree is visible from outside your home, don’t put a lot of gifts under it,” added Chief Deputy Taylor. “That just gives thieves a greater temptation to break into your home. The uncertainty of holiday shipping deadlines further complicates this matter because we don’t always know when packages may be delayed.”

Here are some tips to stop thieves:

  • You can opt to receive free tracking alerts from most major retailers and shipping companies so you know when your package will arrive and can usually predetermine where the delivery driver should leave your package.
  • Have packages shipped to your office (if allowed).
  • Purchase an outdoor video camera. Most cameras and other home security devices can be managed with apps on your cellphone or tablet.
  • Consider purchasing a video doorbell. While thieves probably can’t see a video doorbell from the street, once they see it, it may detour criminal activity.
  • If your budget allows, buy a camera that has motion detection.

Unfortunately, according to Lawrence County Chief Deputy Gregg Taylor, there are times when even the best home security systems are no match for a determined criminal. 

“If you happen to witness a theft on your property or that of a neighbor, contact the authorities, ” explains Chief Deputy Taylor. “In short, the holiday season is a busy time for shoppers, most of whom already have a lot on their minds. Unfortunately, sometimes self-awareness gets lost in the middle of flashing lights, candy canes, and reindeer.”