‘Porch pirates’ beware: technology aids police in catching Christmas crooks

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Cyber Monday is upon us, and soon thousands of packages will be arriving on doorstops around Southern Utah, bringing Christmas joy to many but also opening the gates of opportunity to criminals willing to prey on unsuspecting homeowners.

An alleged thief takes a package from a porch on Main Street, not knowing it is filled with dog poop. St. George, Utah, Dec. 23, 2015 | Photo from surveillance footage courtesy of Jaron Lindow, St. George News

With UPS expecting to deliver an estimated 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so-called “porch pirates,” or package thieves have begun casing neighborhoods looking to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense.

According to a report by Package Guard, at least 11 million packages were stolen off porches last year.

St. George police officer Tiffany Atkin told St. George News that those crimes of opportunity appear to be happening more often since shipping companies stopped requiring signatures for deliveries.

“We’re really hoping that the public will do what they can not to be victims – just because we can’t be everywhere,” Atkin said, noting that although they do their best to be extra visible during the holiday season with increased patrols, there are way more people than officers.

She said one way people can help is by watching out for each other.

“We like the community to be responsible and aware of what is going on,” Atkin said. “If you see that your neighbor has a package on the porch – give them a heads up or collect it for them.”

Atkin said another way to help thwart would-be thieves is by purchasing a doorbell camera or other video recording device covering all areas that packages may be delivered.

Just a few days ago, St. George Police officers were able identify and apprehend a suspect who would have normally gotten away with the crime by using video obtained from a doorbell camera and distributing it internally among officers.

“They’re awesome,” Atkin said about the doorbell cameras. “We were able to locate that person because of that video. It’s always helpful to have evidence of a crime.”

Police in Salt Lake City have been running a sting operation to catch package thieves with the cooperation of Amazon and local delivery services, but Atkin said the St. George Police Department has no plans for such an undertaking and is primarily trying to educate the public on how to best protect themselves.

One St. George homeowner took matters in his own hands against violators and left a box full of dog poop for someone to snag and recorded the incident to draw more attention to the problem. Such decoy packages are now a growing trend, but Atkin said the department does not want the public to do anything that would cause a person harm.

“Let’s not do something that’s going to injure somebody. People’s safety and well-being are far more important than property.”

If a homeowner witnesses suspicious activity, like someone prowling around their neighborhood, or they don’t feel comfortable with them walking around their property, Atkin said feel free to ask them, “What are you doing here? Is there something I can help you with?” or “I just called police and they’re on their way.”

She said to make sure to get a detailed description of the person and their vehicle, and if possible a license plate number would be extremely helpful.

Atkin said thieves will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, even if they attempt to steal a decoy package, because if the intent is there to deprive someone of their property, a crime is being committed.

“We’re all trying to earn our own and just survive, and it’s really unfair that people think they can come take from the citizens that are just trying to do their best and earn a living,” she said, adding that the department is watching, looking and passionate about keeping citizens safe.

“You do want to keep an eye out for each other, for your neighbors and your friends, because we all can’t be everywhere. If everyone watches out and keeps our eye out for one another then we all win,” Atkin said.

If a crime is currently not in progress and there is no immediate danger, call St. George Police at 435-627-4300 to report suspicious activity or call 911 in case of an emergency.

Email: apinckney@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @andrewjpinckney

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • GregPainter November 28, 2018 at 8:02 am

    “We’re all trying to earn our own and just survive, and it’s really unfair that people think they can come take from the citizens that are just trying to do their best and earn a living,” she said, adding that the department is watching, looking and passionate about keeping citizens safe.

    I support our law enforcement and think they do a great job. But this statement had me reflecting on the federal and state government taxes. A lot of the tax dollars is redistribution of wealth. I’m gladly taxed for military and law enforcement, but taking my tax dollars to give to some one else is not right.

    • Comment November 28, 2018 at 10:19 am

      LOL. What does this have to do with ‘porch pirates’?

      So you don’t mind our gov’t giving trillions of dollars to for-profit military contractors and spending on wars that accomplish nothing? Remind me, what are we still doing in afghanistan 17 years later? I’d rather my taxes help out some folks here in the US that need a leg up.

  • Comment November 28, 2018 at 10:21 am

    oh, I bought a video camera for my front porch. It’s not a ‘doorbell cam’, but it’s good. I’m gonna get a few more eventually. This town has enough crime anymore that I worried about being burgled when I’m gone for a few days.

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