(NewsNation) — Americans experience package theft more often than other types of crime, as three out of four have been a victim. In 2022, in fact, “porch pirates” have stolen more than $19 billion worth of packages.
One Cleveland suburb is fighting back. In an operation called Project Stop, Parma, Ohio, police — with the help of residents — set up and make delivery decoy boxes look expensive as bait for criminals.
“We’re setting popular items out there. You know, popular companies: Walmart, Amazon boxes. So yes, we want them to come to us,” Sgt. David D’eusanio of the Parma Police Department said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Tuesday.
The police fill the bait boxes with GPS units, allowing them to track, listen to and take pictures or video of the theft.
”It could be triggered by light movement. We can listen; we can take pictures; we can take video; so it’s real-time GPS. As soon as the package moves, we have a vehicle in the area undercover. We’re watching this package and then we have other units in the area,” Sgt. D’eusanio said.
It’s the second year of the program, and package theft is down nearly half as in 2021 in Parma. But elsewhere, 260 million packages have been stolen this year alone — up 50 million packages from the year before.
“If a thief is silly enough to steal a package in Parma, and it’s a bait package, we’re gonna find it and we’re gonna prosecute them,” Tim Dobeck, a Parma city law director, said.
“We’re also working with the state legislature to see if we could have this become a felony, a low level felony. Right now, stealing a package, depending on the value of the package is typically a misdemeanor,” Dobeck continued.
Police say stealing packages is a low risk and low skill crime, but gave these tips to reduce package theft:
- Security cameras can help
- Sign up for delivery notifications
- Pick up packages at a UPS, FedEx store or Amazon Hub Locker.
- Some retailers will refund or replace an item should you become a victim