Beware of 'porch pirates' this holiday

Beware of 'porch pirates' this holiday

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Face it. The time of year is here when a very few people look to take advantage of the rest of us.
For example:  You order a Christmas gift online and have it delivered to your doorstep but then someone takes it right off your front porch.

Over the next six weeks, hundreds of millions of packages will be delivered to front porches across America. Of that amount, a study by Princeton Survey Research Associates International estimates at least 23 million packages will be stolen.

It happens in South Florida more often than you think. We found some police reports of four different incidents that happened in the past few months.

Two occurred  in West Palm Beach -- one at the 5000 block of Palm Hill Drive and 1600 block of Balfour Point. Another occurred in Lake Worth just two weeks ago on the 5900 block of Triphammer Road in which nearly $250 worth of merchandise was taken from a doorstep. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is investigating the thefts.

Another theft was reported in Martin County last week, where a drone worth $1,166 from was left by a UPS driver on a porch on the 900 block of SE Westminster Place. No suspects have been caught.

Moya Waters of Boca Raton knows what that feels like.

"It made me realize you're not safe, even on your own porch," she said.

Around $500 worth of merchandise was swiped from her porch last year. She hopes it doesn't happen to her again.

"We saw a Lexus pull into the driveway," Waters said, describing the surveillance video from her home. "A young woman hops out and just takes the package, then gets back in and drives off."

The catchy phrase is "Porch Pirates." But for Waters, no fancy term comes to mind. She was just plain angry.

"I felt violated because it's our private property," she said. "She didn't seem to be worried about being caught."

Brian Long with security company ADT says the first step we all should do in order for our expected package to arrive safely is to choose a shipping option that requires you to sign for delivery or track the delivery status online so you can be home when the package arrives.

"Robbers will follow these trucks around neighborhoods whether they are gated or not and they will help themselves to free stuff," he said. "Maybe you can have it sent to your office where there's going to be somebody to receive a package.  Or maybe you have a neighbor you can trust and they are home and you can have it sent to them."

In order to fight back against the porch pirates, some people have also resorted to technologies like a video doorbell. ADT sells a brand called Ring that can start recording when motion is detected at your front door.

"You're able to call the police and say 'there's a crime in progress right now," said Long.

Waters' own surveillance camera captured just enough evidence for police. The culprit left the area and is on the west coast of Florida. If she comes back into the area, police will stop her for questioning.

"They think they know who she is. She has a history of doing this so I think it will catch up with her," said Waters.

Waters says she is much more cautious now.

"I know exactly which packages are coming and when," she said. "These big delivery companies have made it very easy by choosing very quick and close locations to peoples neighborhoods where you simply just go in and pick it up. I think that's the way of the future."

No matter what, waters no longer ships packages to sit out in the open on her porch.

"I think it's not worth committing those crimes anymore," she said. "You never know what you're gonna get in a box. It could be dog food!"

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