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Be proactive against Grinch-like porch pirates

Since the gift-giving season is upon us, local police urge residents to become proactive to reduce package thefts leading up to Christmas. Kara Hildreth / Contributor

Holiday packages sitting on front porches can tempt criminals with Grinch-like tendencies.

Becoming a victim of porch piracy can occur anywhere outside of Whoville.

Rosemount Police Chief Mitchell Scott said theft calls related to packages on porches have ramped up in the last few years since more gifts are ordered online.

Report activity

Reports of package thefts usually go up every year around the holidays, and Scott said he encourages residents to be proactive to avoid package theft.

Preventative tips call for residents to install security cameras or to place holds on packages if you're out of town on the delivery date.

"We pride ourselves on patrolling neighborhoods to help prevent these thefts, but it is important for everyone to report any suspicious activity you may see," Scott said.

Residents may think they do not wish to bother the police for petty thefts, but Scott disagreed and urges residents to call them about any property theft.

Police departments can usually assist with theft cases even if there are only a few details, Scott said. Video footage or photos from surveillance cameras can aid in correctly identifying a criminal.

Encouraging residents to be cautious and aware of potential package theft, Scott said most criminals who steal come into the community from other jurisdictions.

"We do not want people to come to our city to commit crimes and I think Rosemount does a good job," Scott said. "Our officers look for suspicious activity and are not afraid to engage and open dialogue."

Ship packages to store

Packages can be shipped to a person's workplace. Customers can require signatures upon delivery or decide to reroute or reschedule packages to be delivered on a time and day when they will be home.

Shipping broker Rich Loch, owner of Quick Ship in Farmington, said theft of packages is compounded each year with online shopping on the rise.

Loch said statistics show 11 million packages were stolen in 2017 in the United States, and crime projections predict within two years package thefts will be nearly 15 million.

Since online shopping has increased 30 percent since 2015, Loch said packages being delivered to homes with nobody home is now commonplace.

"It is really about educating people because they do not take action until something happens," Loch said. "Having packages delivered to your front porch is like taking your personal possessions and placing them on your front step, and then expecting them to be there when you get home."

Savvy criminals

Package thieves are savvy and ready to act, Loch said. Some can hack into smartphones and intercept emails or messages that notify consumers when packages will be delivered.

"They are not everyday criminals. They rent a U-Haul truck and load up on packages," Loch said. "We are inviting these criminals into our neighborhoods to see if we have any unlocked cars or look into our homes and notice how we live."

Quick Ship offers a place for packages to be shipped to.

"I offer a place to ship packages and I sign for them, have a place for receiving and then I notify them when packages arrive," Loch said. "It is all about how much risk you want to take by leaving your stuff out on the front porch. You can set up surveillance, but it depends on how much you want to put into it."