Police provide tips to keep Christmas gifts protected from porch pirates

Shoppers this holiday season have more than just COVID-19 to worry about.

a sign on the side of a building: (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

© Robert Bumsted, STF / Associated Press

(AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

This year, due to the increase in online shopping, the Memorial Village Police Department is expecting a significant increase in the number of packages stolen from front porches.

According to MVPD Chief of Police Ray Schultz, even though the Texas Legislature increased the penalty for stealing packages last year, criminals are still going to be on the lookout due to the struggling economy.

“Almost every night we’re going out right at dusk and driving the neighborhoods and moving packages,” said Schultz. “There was one-day last week that we moved packages from the front porches of five houses that were right next to each other, each one of them had a pretty significant number of deliveries that were sitting out there as it was getting dark.”

Mail theft will also continue to be a problem during the holiday season. Criminals who steal mail often look for personal information on the resident to file fraudulent claims, such as unemployment assistance from the Texas Workforce Commission. Schultz said residents should check and retrieve their mail daily.

Shopping in store

For in-person shoppers this season, residents should take extra precautions to keep bags in their car out of plain view while they shop and always lock their car doors, Schultz added.

“We continue to have things being taken out of cars that people are failing to lock,” said Schultz, “including in their own driveway or in their own backyard.”

According to Schultz, criminals will go up and down residential streets and check hundreds of car doors to see if they are unlocked. They look through glove boxes and center consoles to find electronics, high-end sunglasses, gift cards, purses, and wallets.

“This is a good time for everyone to take inventory of their purses and wallets,” said Schultz. “Only carry the credit cards that you’re actually using, make sure you know what cards you have with account numbers and emergency phone numbers so should a card be lost or stolen or misplaced it can quickly be deactivated.”

Schultz also wants residents to be aware of potential “sliders”- criminals that slip into vehicles and take things when people are busy doing something else. The most common instances of sliders happen when people are filling up their car with gas.

“They’re concentrating on the gas pumps and putting gas in their car, especially an SUV when it’s harder to see the passenger side,” said Schultz, “and somebody will sneak up along the side of the car, very gently open the door, reach in, grab a purse or wallet, and just slide it right out of the car and take off.”

MVPD feels more prepared this year due to the implementation of their Automatic License Plate Reader system that captures license plates going in and out of the Villages. The system has been in effect for about a year and has led to $1 million in recovered stolen property.

The ALPR, used in conjunction with people’s private systems like video doorbells and security cameras, helps MVPD identify suspect or suspect’s vehicles, according to Schultz.

“We’ve had some good success this year at identifying people that are involved in everything from committing crimes, deaths, stolen landscaping equipment, mail theft, and package theft crimes,” said Schultz.

For more information on how you can stay safe this holiday season, contact your local police department. For emergencies, call 9-1-1.

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