Beware of porch pirates, as people return to work and begin to travel again

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For months, people working and staying at home have been able to quickly grab their packages from their front porch. But with offices and businesses reopening and traveling picking up, it's important people remain alert as deliveries continue.

Monday, Michael Berke and his wife were out running errands. When they returned to their home in Raleigh, they saw a box on their porch had been opened.

"We decided to look into it further and noticed one of the boxes that we thought was delivered and said it had been delivered wasn't there," said Berke.

They pulled up their home surveillance system and saw shortly before 4:00 p.m., a woman slowly driving by, stopping her vehicle, walking towards their porch, and swiping two boxes.

"Shocked a little bit, because it's such a well-traveled neighborhood. We have lots of walkers, dog walkers, kids walking down the street, bicyclists and stuff, so it was shocking, and then you feel a little violated too. And then angry," Berke said.

It happened despite the Ring camera being right next to the door.

"(The responding RPD officer told us) this type of crime is way down, but he's also curious to know if there's going to be an uptick because of people going back to offices and trying to get back to normal," Berke relayed.

A neighbor found one of the boxes, apparently discarded by the suspect, down the street, and returned it. The package the woman kept was valued at about $275.

RPD cited the woman for larceny in connection to this and another nearby incident.

"I was very surprised because we've never had that issue before. You see it on the internet, and you see stories about it. And we've had many, many packages. But it just never occurred that it could happen here," said Berke, who credited RPD for their quick response.

Specific data on porch piracy is tough to obtain, as police departments group it with all larceny charges.

A report in January in the American Journal of Criminal Justice found in a survey of 562 people from 49 states, 23.9% of respondents had been victims of porch piracy, with urban and suburban areas more likely targets than rural ones.

Raleigh and Wake Forest Police shared the following tips to protect your packages:
  • Give the delivery service special instructions. Some services let you indicate where to leave your package if you're not home. You can instruct drivers to leave a package at a back door, with a building superintendent, or in a coded lockbox.
  • Keep tabs on your packages by signing up for alerts.
  • Solicit your neighbors to help-If your neighbors are home during the day, ask them to bring in your packages-or at least give the side eye to strangers who approach your property.
  • Set up a hiding spot for delivery drivers to leave packages so that they are not visible from the street.
  • Invest in a camera- A security camera will serve as a great deterrent for criminals and it helps to prevent package theft. It can also help law enforcement to identify the thieves.
  • Require Package Signature -- If you have to sign for your items, then your packages cannot be left on the doorstep. Instead, the courier will leave a note letting you know the date they will try to make another delivery or where you can pick up the item instead.
  • Deliver Packages to Your Work: If allowed, have all of your items delivered to your place of work. It may be a bit more inconvenient to load up items and take them home, but at least they will not be stolen.
  • Deliver to a Friend or Family Member: If you know someone who is home during the day, you might ask to use their address for delivery. That way, it will not sit on a doorstep and risk being stolen.
  • Designate a Specific Delivery Location: The USPS can allow you to authorize them to leave packages at locations other than the porch. Other locations may include a back door, side door, neighbor or even a garage. To find out if this is an option, create an account with the USPS and enter your package tracking number.
  • Use a Secure Mailbox Service: Sign up for a PO Box at the post office or even a location such as the UPS Store. You can have all packages delivered to these locations, and they will be held securely until you stop by and pick them up. There are fees associated with these services, but it might end up saving you money on those packages that are at risk of being stolen.
  • Be a Good Neighbor: Get to know your neighbors to help one another out by picking up packages you see outside, then send texts or emails to alert one another what you've done. That way the parcels are safe inside and won't be grabbed by thieves.
  • Always, as a good neighbor, be alert and report all crime and suspicious activity. If you see a package being stolen from a neighbor's home, call 911 and report a "crime in progress."
  • In addition, if you see someone acting suspicious or a vehicle that might be causing the neighborhood, call police immediately with an accurate description of the suspect(s) and/or vehicle as well as exactly what they were doing. Being a good neighbor is always the best defense against crime.
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