Law Enforcement Using Bait GPS Trackers to Nab Porch Pirates

7 Dec 2017

Around 23 million people in the United States have had a thief take at least one package from their house in recent years.  And, home surveillance cameras catch these thefts even in broad daylight.

As  U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the third quarter of 2017 was about $115 billion (an increase of more than 3.5 percent over the second quarter of the year), according to The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, burglars are seeking these omnipresent Christmas packages this holiday season, making them a popular sought after item.

The good news, however, police departments are now taking advantage of GPS trackers to catch these “porch pirates” in the act. According to the California Campbell Police Department’s Captain, Gary Berg, they’re putting out baiting packages to catch the crooks who are taking the packages.

As the report calls them, the “Porch Pirates” usually tail the delivery drivers and once the drivers are out of sight, they nab the merchandise.

This time around, the home security cameras at Rick Deckman’s house cause the act in real-time. Deckman said the thief tailed a driver of United Parcel Service (UPS) to his home in Malibu in broad daylight and grabbed the two packages he had out at his front door.

Deckman told NBC News that he was blown away. He said he couldn’t believe that this happened to him.

For Deckman and other consumers, shopping online has always been a convenience, but now no longer outweighs the drawbacks of their packages being possibly stolen. Leaders in the industry have made a commitment to address this problem since public confidence in security is crucial in the business model of the mail delivery industry.

Jeff Rossen, TODAY’s national investigative correspondent, demonstrated his GPS tracking technology by snatching a bait package the Campbell police planted at a doorstep. After taking the package, he didn’t tell police where he was going.

However, since the package contained the GPS tracker, Rossen didn’t need to tell them where he went off to. It only took moments before police caught up with him and stopped his car, despite taking a back road and indirect route to a secluded park. Berg told him that if he’d been an actual thief, he’d have already been in handcuffs.

The UPS not only anticipates it will be delivering around 630 million packages during the time period between Black Friday and New Year’s but also is providing its customers with alternate ways of receiving their packages.

The company, this past summer, proposed to expand its UPS Access Point network. This is their service that offers pickup and drop off of packages primarily at neighborhood grocery and convenience stores, delicatessens and dry cleaners to around 22,000 worldwide and 8,000 U.S. locations by the end of the year.

A company spokesman for UPS, made a statement to NBC News, acknowledging that package theft was gaining spotlight as more cases of stolen packages are being caught by similar home surveillance technology like Deckman’s as well as posts on social media platforms by victims in some cases.

The spokesman said that along with Access Point, UPS customers could also go online and contact drivers to indicate their alternative drop-off location choices.

Also in California, Rancho Cordova police have just recently started a program to catch thieves. Police dress up in street clothes and drive unmarked cars delivering packages that contain fake electronics and GPS technology to Sacramento suburb homes. Although there haven’t been any arrests made through this program as of yet, officials do say they think these decoy packages could very well help deter and even stop future thefts, according to Deputy Matthew Deaux.

And, Deaux told NBC News that the more potential thieves know they’re doing this, the less inclined they’ll be to do it.

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