Porch pirates. They're the scrooges of the holiday season. Thieves who can't resist the temptation of an unattended package.
DeKalb, Athens, Fairburn and Gwinnett—No one is exempt from porch thieves. Some show up in cars, others on a getaway bicycle. Then there’s the saunterer – who acts like nothing is wrong.
Police say that’s your clue.
"Somebody that looks out of place, doesn’t look like a delivery driver walking up to someone’s porch, taking a package away from the porch you know that’s an indicator as well," Lisa Bender with Atlanta Police Department said.
Some will look around to see if the coast is clear. But, the ones who get caught don’t realize anyone is watching.
Police say how often these crimes get solved depends on you and your neighbors.
HOW TO CATCH A PORCH PIRATE
"What’s really helpful is when a neighbor can get us a description," Bender said.
Police say the best way to catch someone is to get a really good description of the suspect, take a picture or catch them on surveillance video as they steal your package.
Atlanta Police have made two recent arrests for theft – but they’ve gotten calls for several more.
Bender said, "One of the arrests that was made recently, we were able to pick the person up within minutes."
That’s the best-case scenario because officers say this kind of theft is different. In other cases, you might have a serial number to help track whatever they take. But, if it’s a new package, you probably haven’t even had a chance to look.
Sometimes the difference between delivered and gone happens in a matter of seconds. So police say help yourself out.
"If you’re going to have packages delivered, you want to maybe require a signature, if not, have it delivered during a time you’re going to be home," Bender said.
Many of the videos sent to 11Alive are from the Ring Video Doorbell. It captures high definition video of the moments before and after someone approaches the porch.
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
This woman was trolling a Buckhead neighborhood, opening each mailbox until she found gold. In this case, a brave neighbor confronted her, took a very clear picture of her face and copied down her license plate number.
"She said she was checking the mail for a friend...when we tried to verify that story with the person whose mailbox she was checking, that person did not know this individual," Bender said.
Because of these details, police know who she is. Officers say that kind of evidence is how someone gets caught.
"Any sort of detail at all really does help," she said.
PREVENTING PACKAGE THEFTS
These are crimes of opportunity that can be prevented if the opportunity isn't there. Fairburn Deputy Police Chief Anthony Bazydlo said shipping to another address could be a solution.
"We encourage everyone to have packages shipped to a work or alternative address where someone will be present to receive packages and bring them inside. Use of a P.O. box is also a great idea for the safe delivery of a package," he said.
His department had a theft caught on video on Nov. 30. The department posted the video on their Facebook page that now has more than 50,000 views.
Alternative locations to have packages shipped range from mailboxes at UPS to Post Office boxes at your local post office.
UPS mailboxes range in price from $60 to $100 for a three-month rental. The price depends on several factors including location and size of the box.
You can also have packages shipped to your local post office for free. Tell person or company you’re ordering from, instead of putting in your home address online, put in the address of your local post office. Then they’ll keep it on a shelf and have a slip for you – or put it in a locker if it fits.
You can also purchase a P.O. box for anywhere from $99 to $157 for six months.