‘Tis the season for home deliveries of Christmas purchases, and for thieves to take advantage of those drop-offs.
So-called porch pirates are known to travel neighborhoods looking for delivered packages they can swipe from front stoops. Area law enforcement and the delivery services say there are preventative steps to discourage the thefts.
Wauseon Assistant Chief John Roof said while the crime occurs only occasionally in the city, it’s still important for citizens to remain vigilant. Due to the nature of the mostly misdemeanor grab-and-run crime, the packages often are not recovered, he said. Security video can help identify the culprit but it’s not typically available.
Roof said the most obvious solution is to not have packages delivered to the front door, especially during a time when the recipient isn’t home. “Leaving it to sit on your front porch doesn’t do much good. Have it delivered where somebody can take physical custody of it right away,” he said. That can include to a trustworthy neighbor’s house or directly to the person’s workplace.
In Swanton, Chief Adam Berg said delivery thefts aren’t a major problem. “A lot of people keep an eye out for their neighbors,” he said.
However, he advised those expecting a front-porch delivery to notify neighbors that a package is forthcoming. He also suggested, for general security as well, investing in a doorbell camera. A relatively new product, it identifies anyone approaching the home and can be viewed remotely.
Archbold Police Chief Leo Wixom said porch pirate thefts occurred four or five times during previous holiday seasons. The thieves targeted a specific area in the village where packages were more visible.
He said he’ll order extra daytime patrols this season to help prevent thefts.
Wixom recommends requesting that U.S. Post Office deliveries be held at the office for pick-up. He said if delivery is through an online service, ask a neighbor who is home during the day to allow delivery at their home.
He said a village resident once asked to have holiday packages delivered to the police station but that wasn’t an option.
United Parcel Service delivers more than 20 million packages daily across the United States. Spokesperson Dawn Wotapka said the company believes the increase isn’t in package theft but in the attention it receives from media due to expanded video surveillance in some areas.
Still, Wotapka said UPS does receive complaints from customers, who can follow proactive measures to prevent theft. They include requiring a signature to leave a package or using UPS My Choice, an option that offers the recipient a specific choice of delivery location. Deliveries can also be made to UPS access point locations or to pick-up stations at area CVS, Michael’s or Advanced Auto Parts stores.
In cases of medical supplies, the company has partnered with companies to use drones for delivery service, and may use drones more expansively in the future.
Where those services aren’t available, have the shipment sent to where the recipient is, not where they aren’t, Wotapka said. “If they are at work during the day they can have packages delivered there,” she said. “They can also choose to have things sent to a relative or neighbor who is home during the day.”
When that’s not feasible, by request a package can be placed at the home in a more secure spot, such as a backyard shed or behind a garage.
While Federal Express does not offer insurance on deliveries, its 15 million daily customers can buy limited declared value coverage, spokesperson Jonathan Lyons said. As with other delivery services, the customer can customize their home deliveries to fit their schedules.
In rural areas such as Fulton County, packages can be redirected to some grocery stores and Dollar General stores for pick-up within five business days. Lyons said Federal Express drivers also can be instructed to require a signature upon delivery or exactly where on a property to place a package.
“And all year long we work with our drivers and service providers to be aware of their surroundings and report any unusual activities,” he said. “Any customer who suspects that a package has been stolen should contact police.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.