MENTOR, Ohio (WJW) – The kickoff to the holidays also means it’s open season on valuable packages delivered to your doorstep.
Police in Mentor are among local law enforcement agencies that are trying to crack down on the theft of packages.
Porch pirates have been a plague on Northeast Ohio and the country ever since online shopping and the home delivery of packages became the American way.
“It’s an easy thing to grab and they don’t care. They’ll open it up, if it’s not worth anything, they pitch it, but you know, one in 10. If you find something valuable and sell it on the black market, you score big, so they’re looking for high value items like electronics or anything they can easily sell on the street or pawn shop,” Mentor Police Captain Mike Majernik said. “To us, it’s pennies on the dollar, but for them to get an extra $20 to go and feed their habit is hitting the jackpot.”
Alarmed by the increase in crimes committed by porch pirates, Mentor police created an anti-theft program four years ago, with an emphasis on increased patrols and placing undercover officers in neighborhoods, especially during the holiday season.
“Watching out for people following trucks, delivery trucks or somebody that just looks like they’re canvassing the area,” said Captain Majernik.
Among the weapons in the fight against porch pirates are so-called bait boxes, and police want the thieves to know that the next package they steal in Mentor could be loaded with the kind of electronics that will land them in jail.
Captain Majernik opened a parcel and told us, “this is one of our bait boxes, and if a thief opens it, they don’t know that we have one of the GPS tracking devices inside, so this will allow our officers to follow the package and make a traffic stop and then make an arrest.”
Police say online shoppers can also help deter theft by among other things, having their package delivered to a reliable neighbor or to their place of work or even consider placing a delivery box on their porch.
Investigators say history has shown that porch pirates can be relentless, but generally move on when they face vigilant and cautious residents and aggressive policing with weapons like the bait boxes.
“If you don’t know what you’re picking up, if that’s the one, I’m not risking that. I’m going to go somewhere else where that’s not going to be the case,” said Captain Majernik.