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Porch pirates with nothing to plunder

Porch Thefts Sting
Robert Bumsted
/
AP
The explosion in online shopping has led to porch pirates and stoop surfers swiping holiday packages from unsuspecting residents.

Neptune Beach Police have a plan to thwart porch pirates before they ever get to your door this holiday season.

As online shopping grows, the Police Department invites you to ship your purchases to the department and pick them up there.

This will be the third year for the program, which the department skipped in 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How often packages get hijacked is hard to say. Most thefts get reported to shippers like Amazon, not to police, a police spokesman said.

But the frequency is rising with online shopping, which grew in part because people shunned stores during the pandemic. As deliveries increase, experts say, so is the value of packages.

Some 43% of online shoppers reported having a package stolen at least once in the past year, according to C+R Research in Chicago. That compared with 36% in 2019 and 31% in 2018.

Shipping to another location like a police department is one of several tips recommended by the Better Business Bureau and other services.

Among other tips:

  • Track your packages and retrieve them immediately after they're delivered.
  • Have packages delivered to an Amazon or UPS delivery locker.
  • Arrange for delivery when you'll be home
  • Have the sender require a signature.
  • Have packages placed out of sight.
  • Install a door camera.
  • Use your credit card (it will protect you from loss more than a debit card).
  • Insure valuable items.

Camera doorbells have helped police in several cities nab porch pirates. A Utah resident, fed up with package thefts, put a GPS tracker in a box and videotaped a thief stealing it off the porch.
Police have done the same thing with decoy packages in some cities. Others are taking the same approach as Neptune Beach, allowing residents to ship packages to the police headquarters.

The Neptune Beach department expects to receive 75 to 100 packages from residents this year, the spokesman said. To participate in the Holiday Package Receiving Program, you must:

  • Be a resident of Neptune Beach.
  • Have packages sent to Police Headquarters, 200 Lemon St., Neptune Beach 32266.
  • Present a Florida driver's license of ID card to pick up your packages between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The program will run through Dec. 23.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service and was recognized as a Pulitzer finalist for breaking news. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida, including positions at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the Tampa Bay Times and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, where he directed regional coverage and later business news. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, where he was editor of the daily student newspaper. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.