Porch pirates already are out in numbers, cruising neighborhoods and looking for easy marks as packages are left on doorsteps.
With online holiday shopping ramping up, Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers aims to sink them in their tracks.
The agency kicked off “Operation Porch Pirate” on Friday morning, hoping to shine a light on thieves as well as put out a bounty fo their arrests.
The effort, in its first year, runs until Dec. 31.
“We’re working with local law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx to hopefully make this a more secure holiday season,” said Mike Blatman, Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers’ law enforcement coordinator.
One way Crime Stoppers is trying to turn up the heat on package thieves is by offering a minimum $100 bounty for information leading to arrests. The organization also is loosening reward requirements by paying for information leading to the arrest of people committing misdemeanor theft.
Also, Crime Stoppers will turn up the heat on social media. It will share video and pictures of porch pirates on Facebook and its website, and is working with local law enforcement to share the information as well.
Blatman saw the need for some sort of campaign as he watched dozens of packages being delivered in his neighborhood. When he or his neighbors leave for trips, they forget about deliveries and leave packages in mailboxes or outside their front door.
All of this is further complicated by the design of some homes, he said. Secluded entry ways and garages that sit in front of the home make it easier for thieves.
“It just made sense. Let’s do something to encourage people to report that,” he said. “We’re looking for those opportunities where we don’t know who the bad guy or bad woman is, and let us know that information.”
If people see someone stealing mail, they should call police, he said.
Crime Stoppers also is working with delivery companies and homeowners to make their packages safer, Blatman said.
Craig Johnson, with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the U.S. Postal Service will deliver about 900 million packages and more than 15 million other pieces of mail during the holiday season.
Local mail carriers are getting training to be aware of their surroundings and other ways to curb theft.
People living in the area still have some of the best chances of heading off porch pirates, said Johnson and Blatman.
Some tips include:
- Enlist a neighbor to keep an eye out for your deliveries.
- Get items shipped to work.
- Sign up for delivery notifications.
- Put in a lock box where packages can be dropped off.
- Install a security camera.
- Set up a neighborhood watch.
If you have a tip for Crime Stoppers, you can call 509-586-8477, or 800-222-8477 or go online to www. tricitiescrimestoppers.org.