(CW44 News At 10) – As we wrap up our Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, most of us are probably expecting packages at our doorstep soon. But what if they never arrive…or so you think?

In 2020, the holiday season has become all about timing: when to order online gifts so that they arrive on time and when to keep a close eye out for their arrival. This is because drawbacks, like package thieves or porch pirates are becoming more prevalent with the convenience of online shopping.

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“Try to minimize the amount of time that package is out there on the porch. Every moment that goes by is increased opportunity for someone to come by and do this,” said Major David Gerardo with the St. Pete Police Department. He continues, “I’ve actually personally, it wasn’t a package, it was actually Christmas decorations taken off the front porch, but again it’s kind of a similar situation. Something of value sitting out there within plain sight and it’s unbelievable how quickly it occurs.”

CW44 News At 10

CW44’s Andrea Alvarez stopped by the St. Pete Police Department Monday afternoon to talk with Major Gerardo about his experience as a victim of porch theft. He says the criminal was caught on surveillance cam but that it’s not always reliable.  “It can be useful after the fact but you can’t always rely on that to prevent it from happening in the first place, nor is it always a silver bullet in solving incidents after the fact,” said Major Gerardo.

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The issue being the criminal conceals themselves well enough or poor camera footage quality itself. But there are other ways to catch a criminal. “If you do see something strange going on in the neighborhood whether it’s at your house or neighbor’s house, just be aware of your surroundings. Of course any other information you can get, whether it’s a tag number or a physical description of the vehicle or a person, that’s great,” said Major Gerardo.

Officials at SPPD tell CW44 News At 10, statistics like these are harder to track because they’re lumped in with “petty theft” and sometimes “burglaries”. According to C+R Research, package theft is a growing problem in the U.S. with 36% of Americans reporting having a package stolen at least once in 2019. Instead of catching the criminal, Major Gerardo says an ounce of prevention goes a long way too.

“The online tools that most retailers or shippers provide you with in terms of your delivery date, delivery time, delivery window, contact a neighbor if you know a neighbor is going to be home when the package gets delivered, you can have the package delivered to work or a neighbor’s house or a family members house. A lot of shippers allow you to leave special instructions for the delivery,” said Major Gerardo. “A lot of times these are folks just driving up and down the street and it’s a crime of opportunity. They see a package on the porch they go, they pick it up, they walk away with it.”

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One study performed by C + R Research found respondents take the following precautions to prevent package theft:

  • Staying home for deliveries
  • Shopping at stores
  • Opting for in-store pick-up
  • Requiring a signature for deliveries
  • Getting packages delivered to work or to a friend/relative