Thieves known as “porch pirates” have begun targeting the front step of suburban homes, stealing packages delivered to doorsteps just in time for Christmas.
The New York Times reports on an ongoing issue that has arisen around the holiday season following the popularity of online shopping. “Porch pirates,” as they’re called, are thieves that wait until companies such as UPS leave packages unattended on the front porch of homes preparing for Christmas, then quickly snatch the boxes, some of which contain thousands of dollars worth of gifts. Recently the Seattle Sheriff’s department performed a sting operation to catch these thieves after they stole a box filled with several electronic items worth over $500 from a “bait box” with a tracking device inside that was left on a front porch.
Just after 2:00 AM one of the thieves stole the bait box and was tracked by police to a house only two blocks away. The 27-year-old thief had apparently noticed the tracking device inside the bait box and in an attempt to hide his location, microwaved the device leading to charges of evidence tampering as well as theft. While porch pirates have been operating for years, law enforcement believes that the rise in online shopping has lead to increased theft, Angela Sands, a spokeswoman for the Police Department in Lincoln, Nebraska, stated: “There’s more packages for them to grab.”
Nirav Tolia, chief executive of Nextdoor, a social media app for users in a neighborhood to connect, said complaints of porch pirates have grown on the social media platform over the past year, “One of the outcomes is you’ve got one of the easiest ways to steal something ever.” Some of the porch pirates are quite efficient in their thieving methods, following UPS trucks and grabbing packages right after they’re delivered. In Lincoln, two people were recently arrested with more than 30 UPS packages inside their vehicle. Over the course of Christmas, Nextdoor reportedly sees a 500 percent increase in reports of stolen packages.
Mike Armstrong, a general contractor in Memphis who has become well known in his neighborhood for his vigilante tactics in protecting people’s packages, discussed the issue with the New York Times. Armstrong has reportedly confronted approximately a dozen possible package thieves over the course of four years, earning him the nickname “strong arm of the law” from his neighbors. “It’s almost like this sick perversion I have, catching thieves,” said Armstrong.
Police officers have begun cracking down on the issue, according to Sgt. Christopher Burley of the Portland Police Department, over the course of this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, police officers in Portland planted 21 bait packages, made four arrests and recovered a stolen vehicle. Steve Gaut, a spokesman for UPS, said that public perception of the issue was on the rise, “driven by the greater use and affordability of home surveillance technology and the pervasiveness of social media and related user-generated social content.”
So this Christmas season, make sure to be on the lookout for porch pirates targeting home deliveries in your neighborhood.