3 tips to stop porch pirates this holiday season

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(NewsNation) — If you’re waiting for last-minute holiday gifts to arrive in the mail, you may not be alone.

Over the last year, an estimated 260 million delivered packages were stolen across the U.S., worth more than $19.5 billion, according to a report from SafeWise, an online guide to security and safety products. A year ago, the estimate was 210 million.

Dennis Farris, a former police officer in Austin, Texas, said the increase can be explained because aside from there being an increase in packages during the holiday season, it’s a fairly easy crime to commit.

He added that police officers don’t patrol neighborhoods as often as they used to, which leaves the opportunity for thieves to strike.

“You’ve got a shortage of police officers and there’s no neighborhood patrols. It’s opening up, making things easier,” Farris said. “Look at the economic situation in the country right now. People are desperate, and when you need to get something, you don’t want to buy it, you just go steal it off somebody’s porch.”

Here are the top 10 U.S. metros for porch pirates, according to Safeway:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA
  2. Seattle/Tacoma, WA
  3. Austin, TX
  4. Hartford & New Haven, CT
  5. Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA
  6. Los Angeles, CA
  7. Portland, OR
  8. Fresno-Visalia, CA
  9. Milwaukee, WI
  10. New Orleans, LA

Here are Farris’ tips to prevent package thieves:

  • Use a security camera
    • Farris recommends installing a video doorbell. Even if a package is stolen from your porch, the video evidence can help law enforcement track down thieves.
  • Don’t leave unattended packages
    • Farris recommends scheduling deliveries when you know someone will be home. Ask a neighbor if they would mind holding on to packages delivered if you plan to be gone for an extended time during the holidays.
  • Consider a package receiving service
    • Some major retailers, such as Amazon, offer secure package-receiving locations away from your home that you can access with a key or code.
    • Farris recommends using Amazon Key In-Garage Delivery or utilizing an Amazon Locker where your items can be safely stored until you’re ready to pick them up.

Many people who do have video cameras will share videos of the incident on social media, and Farris said that’s the “right thing to do.”

“The more people that know what happened and see the person that did it, the chances of them being identified and the information getting to the police to make an arrest it’s just there. It’s a force multiplier by sharing that video, he explained.

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