Criminals intent on "Christmas shopping" at your expense might pay your porch a visit before Santa can even hitch up his sleigh this year.
Porch piracy — when delivered packages are swiped from outside your home — remains a significant problem, especially with more people ordering items online, security experts say.
SafeWise reported that millions of packages disappeared from porches across the U.S. over the last 12 months. And a C+R Research survey found 23% of Americans have been a victim already this year and 60% know someone who has had a package stolen during the holiday season.
Authorities offer several tips on how not to become a victim:
Invest in a doorbell security camera.
Sign up for notifications from the shipping company to tell you when the package has arrived.
Take advantage of other online-shopping security measures.
Foster good friendships with trusted neighbors.
Delivery thefts are otherwise difficult to solve, and their numbers are difficult to tally.
'It's a hugely under-reported crime.'
"It's a hugely under-reported crime," Canton Police Chief Jack Angelo said. "I don't know that we've had a lot of reports. I'm sure there are some. A lot of times, they're not reported because people contact the company and the company sends (a replacement of the ordered product)."
Also, it's difficult to determine whether someone stole a delivered item from a porch without the victim providing photographic or video evidence of the actual theft.
Canton Police Lt. John Gabbard, who oversees the city's Crime Center, said his primary recommendation involves buying a doorbell camera.
"Everyone should have a doorbell camera," he said. "We get a lot of good video off (video) doorbells."
Doorbell camera video fees can be as little as $3 a month, such as the Ring camera, which enables the owner to keep a video history of up to 60 days.
Canton police say that crime victims and neighbors have been supplying video doorbell camera footage with increasing frequency and that has helped in so many cases, the chief said.
Advances in the technology in even the last few years have resulted in video that is so clear that, when approached by a neighborhood watch group with $10,000 to spend on city-placed cameras in their neighborhood, Angelo and Gabbard advised the group to take the money and instead buy each home in the neighborhood a doorbell camera.
Ask the delivery company for help
Major C.J. Stantz of the Stark County Sheriff's Office recommends that residents expecting deliveries also ask the company to place their boxed merchandise in a place not easily seen from the road.
Some companies will also have the boxes placed inside garages.
One example is Amazon's "key in-garage delivery." With it, customers with a garage door-linked smartphone app get a one-time access code that opens the door when the driver scans the code. Amazon verifies the package and the driver's location when the package is scanned.
"Amazon takes a picture of your delivery on your porch. That's a big help, I think," Angelo said, noting that it's a good way the recipient can know the package has been delivered.
You might not be home, but most shipping companies also have tracking procedures with updates sent to the recipient via text or email.
Have good relationships with your neighbors
Still, Gabbard said, "Nothing replaces the power of having good relationships with your neighbors."
Neighbors can either hold the packages for the recipient or keep an eye out for porch pirates.
Uniontown Police Lt. Nate Weidman said it was a light year for reports of delivered packages being stolen.
Home security cameras, delivery alerts from shipping companies and other precautionary tactics seem to help keep residents from becoming victims of porch pirates, he said.
Weidman recommends residents sign up for notifications to be alerted when those packages will arrive, a service most companies are happy to provide.
"Take that extra 10 seconds," he said, adding that it's also most helpful to have trusted neighbors. "That community strength is probably the best thing we have around here."
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Porch pirates beware! Police use doorbell cameras to ID you