MENTOR, Ohio — Holiday shopping is already in full swing as the first week of November comes to an end.
The National Retail Federation reports online shopping has skyrocketed, rising almost 50% from 2019, due to the pandemic. In fact, of the 10% more money people are predicted to spend this holiday season, 15% of that spending is expected to be going towards online shopping.
This increase is sure to result in an annual surge in package and retail thefts, so the Mentor Police Department is launching efforts to cut back on porch pirates.
"We noticed an increase in theft-related to packages be due to people shopping online and that sort of thing," said Captain Mike Majernik. "And this year we expect much more of the same with increased online shopping."
The department said officers will be in unmarked cars, using surveillance equipment to keep an extra eye on delivery trucks in neighborhoods. They'll also be using bait packages to catch thieves. A program the department launched last year and it proved to be successful.
"We put eight boxes out in various neighborhoods with GPS trackers," said Majernik. "So last year we actually did arrest one female who was in the neighborhood. She had thefts from both Mentor and Willoughby. A neighbor actually called it in. But, we had officers in the neighborhoods who were working on the program and they were able to stop her, make the arrest and recover merchandise."
Majernik said officers are not just watching out for porch pirates. He said plain-clothes officers will also be patrolling in participating stores to crack down on retail theft crime rings.
"Video games are always a hot topic, but in certain clothes, high-end clothing items are always popular. Electronics and that sort of thing, Anything that's got a high value to it is a target for these thieves," he said.
Mentor is the sixth-largest retail destination in Ohio, with more than 300 retailers generating about $2 billion in sales annually.
Because of its retail popularity, the city of Mentor has a SCRAM Network. It allows homeowners or businesses to register their security cameras with the department
"It doesn't give us direct access to it. We just know where to look and ask for their video, and it has helped us solve many crimes so far," said Majernik.
Mentor police said oftentimes the best crime deterrent is its own residents. So they are encouraging people to keep an eye on your neighbors and neighborhood and report anything out of the ordinary.