Protect yourself from 'porch pirates' this holiday season - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Protect yourself from 'porch pirates' this holiday season

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(WAFF) -

Not everyone is interested in embracing the true meaning of the holidays by giving back. Others are more interested in taking things.

And thieves often set their sights on easy targets, like those boxes full of the things you ordered and had delivered to your home. They’re called “porch pirates” and they’ve been caught on camera snatching purchases time and time again.

It happened last year in Madison County and lots of other places. And police want to prevent it this holiday season.

“Last year, especially closer to Christmas when those packages start coming in, there were instances where people were following the delivery truck or mail truck. No sooner than the truck delivered it and pulled off, they would go and take the things that had been dropped off,” said Lt. Donny Shaw with the Madison County Sheriff's Office.

In some cases, surveillance video was available and authorities were able to use that to find the thieves. In other cases, there were no cameras or footage and it was a loss.

“If you're going to be ordering a package and have an idea of when it's going to be there, try to be home. It's as simple as that. In other situations, see if you can request that the package can be signed for so it's not left on your doorstep, on the driveway by the garage or on your porch because unfortunately, that does become a target for these would-be thieves,” said Capt. John Stringer with the Madison Police Department.

Don't let it be a surprise if you've ordered something special for a loved one. Let them know it's on its way to them. You can also have items shipped to your workplace or ask a neighbor to accept it.

“If neighbors look out for each other, not only for packages, but for anything else, it just makes for a safer neighborhood,” Shaw said. “We just encourage you to have some kind of method in place so that the package is delivered and accepted and held until you can take possession of it or take possession of it yourself.”

You can purchase Wi-Fi cameras that notice movement and send real-time alerts to your smartphone, allowing you to sound an alarm, and see and speak to people at your front door no matter where you are. Make sure to research the company ahead of time.

But authorities say you don’t want to let it get to the point where someone is already at your house, looking to steal something.

“We do need to have a plan. It may sound excessive, but think about what you're going to be doing. If you're receiving items and packages at your home, nothing would be worse than to order that special gift and not have it under the tree for your family. We want to get these things out there now so we don't have any of these instances occur,” Stringer said.

You can also leave a note for the driver with instructions on if there's a safe place around your residence that you want it left or if you want it left with a neighbor. Consider requiring a signature for delivery and insure your packages.

The Huntsville Police Department also sent out an advisory this week on holiday safety, stating, “Remember, not everyone's intentions are as good as your own. Lock your car, always. Don't leave your belongings in your car at night. Keep a close eye on package deliveries left on your porch. As we enter into the holiday season, take extra security precautions and - as always - remain vigilant.”

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