Ah, it’s that time of year again when Christmas decorations appear, online holiday shopping hits its peak, and the porch pirates gear up to swipe Christmas gifts and whatever else they can sell on the dark web.
This season usually leads to a spike in thefts and home and porch burglaries. And with COVID-19 affecting people’s pocketbooks, it’s no doubt going to bring out more acts of theft.
Murphy police and Collin County Sheriff’s Office are offering safety tips to keep in mind this holiday season and hopefully prevent you from becoming a porch pirate’s next victim.
“We have not had a particularly bad rash of these crimes, but it’s always best to be on the defensive,” Murphy Police Chief Trey Cotten says. “Taking steps to prevent thefts and burglaries helps all of us send a message that Murphy (or Collin County) is not a welcoming place for criminals.”
ATM, wallets & purses
Above all, keep an eye on purses and wallets, which can be easily taken even while the owner is nearby. Withdrawing large sums from ATM machines is particularly discouraged as vulnerability at these locations is high.
Always watch where you park when you are shopping. Parking spaces close to the store entrance are ideal. If it is dark, be sure to make note of landmarks, nearby signs, or poles to make it easier to find your car. Also, do your best to avoid parking by large vehicles, which can offer protection for thieves.
If you came out of the store to load packages before you head to the next one, maybe move the car to another space because criminals may be watching you.
Obviously, locking your car is a must. So be sure to double check your doors and windows, including the sunroof.
“Before getting in the car for that shopping trip, throw a blanket in the car,” Chief Cotten says. “The blanket can cover your purchases while you’re away from the car. Also, keep all your receipts, which will be necessary if your car gets broken into.”
Blinds and curtains at home should remain closed when no one is home. Showing off the Christmas tree with lots of wrapped gifts underneath it can impress the neighbors but can also attract burglars.
Delivery drop-off instructions can be arranged with most carriers online. These instructions may include asking delivery drivers to leave packages in secure places such as the side of the house, at the back door, in the garage or even with a neighbor.
“Track when your package will arrive and be ready to receive it,” Chief Cotten says. “You might be able to schedule the delivery according to your schedule, or at the very least, you’ll know when to be home to accept it. If you’re away from home for an extended period, you can have your packages held for pickup or schedule a later delivery.”
Sgt. Jessica Pond, the Collin County Sheriff’s Office public relations officer, points out that turning on the delivery notifications on your phone is also a good idea.
Besides giving special instructions to delivery service, she recommends requiring a signature for delivery and installing cameras around your porch.
Amazon also offers a key service where you can give the delivery person access to your home so they can drop off the packages inside and lock it when they leave. Sgt. Pond mentions that package lock boxes “are pretty awesome” and self-locks after the delivery person places your packages inside.
Most importantly, don’t stack too many packages on the front porch.
Anti-porch pirate tech
New anti-theft technology can also help. These include connected home devices like the Nest Cam, Ring, or any other video surveillance products. Some anti-package theft devices serve as a landing spot for packages, alerting the homeowner when a package is delivered and when it’s removed. If a package is removed without authorization, a loud alarm sounds.
What to do if you become a victim
Sgt. Pond first recommends checking to make sure that your package was delivered before you contact your local law enforcement agency. Be sure to have a copy of the surveillance video and ask your neighbors if their camera systems captured the crime in action. And keep a receipt of the product.
UPS, USPS, Fedex, and Amazon all have a process to file a claim.
“It is very hard to track down (porch pirates), especially if we have no way to get information and no one saw it,” she says.