‘Porch pirates’ strike before holidays

Published 8:21 pm Friday, December 20, 2019

Theft at Downey home from Suffolk News-Herald on Vimeo.

’Tis the season for “porch pirates” — thieves that steal packages delivered to people’s porches when they’re not home — and one such thief or group of thieves struck in the Lakeside and West End neighborhood near downtown on Thursday evening.

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According to neighbors and police reports, at least three or four incidents were reported.

For Casey Downey, the theft was especially frustrating not only because of the high value of his delivery — a new laptop for his landscaping business — but also because he took many of the steps usually recommended to avoid package theft, and they didn’t work.

“I don’t know what else to do, except sit out there in a lawn chair and wait,” he said.

The laptop for his business, Clean Cut Image Lawn and Landscape, originally was supposed to be delivered Friday, so he and his wife had planned to be at their home on South Broad Street.

But it was delivered Thursday night, he said — and the delivery driver didn’t get a signature as the Downeys had required, but instead simply left it on the porch.

About 30 minutes later, the thief struck.

On their Ring video later, the Downeys could see the thief stroll right through their gate, go straight for the package and hustle back to the street with it. At the end of the video, a neighbor who was outside can be heard shouting at the thief.

The woman in the video seemed brazen, Downey said.

“She was obviously very comfortable with what she was doing,” he said. “It wasn’t her first time, for sure.”

Through the network of neighbors, Downey learned another nearby resident had gotten a license plate of the car, so he’s hopeful his laptop will be recovered. If not, he’s hoping to get another one at no charge due to the signature requirement that was ignored.

Another theft was reported on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to police reports. Downey said he had heard of one on Military Avenue as well.

The theft has left Downey and others wondering — if a gate, a camera, a planned delivery time, a planned signature requirement and involved neighbors who were outside all failed to prevent the theft, what will?

Downey doesn’t know the answer to that, but he does know he has great neighbors. Thursday night’s incident only reinforced that.

“Everybody had their eyes out and was willing to help, and the social media thing really helped,” he said.

Although they clearly don’t always work, here are some tips to help prevent package theft from safety.com:

  • Install outdoor security cameras or video doorbells, and make sure they’re functional, highly visible and clearly pointed at the package drop-off area.
  • Get a home security system, or at least post signs saying you have one.
  • Get a package lockbox for your porch.
  • Have your packages delivered elsewhere, such as your place of employment, an Amazon delivery site or a neighbor who’s usually home.
  • Request that deliveries require a signature.
  • Subscribe to delivery alerts.
  • Keep the area around your front porch clear and visible.
  • Request nondescript packaging, so potential thieves can’t see figure out the item or the store it’s from.