MENTOR, Ohio — With Black Friday in the rearview mirror and Cyber Monday’s deals set for shoppers, the holiday shopping season is officially in full swing. With online sales expected to hit record sales again, Adobe Analytics reports $9.1 billion were spent in online orders this year on Black Friday.
Nearly half of those sales were made by people using a smartphone, up 44% from a year ago.
The spike in purchases and deliveries lends itself to those yule-tide thieves who are looking to swipe a package off your porch. So, the Mentor Police Department is stepping up patrols and reviving the department’s undercover Porch Pirate Detail.
“We have an undercover detail that goes out there. Our detective bureau will go out in unmarked cars, and they'll be watching the deliveries or watching for suspicious people in the neighborhoods to keep an eye on to make sure nobody's taking packages,” said officer Scott Bell.
The department will be keeping a watchful eye this holiday season, even using bait boxes to catch thieves that have GPS trackers inside. Mentor Police also utilize Lake County’s Security Camera Registration and Mapping Program to help assist with identifying suspects involved in thefts and other criminal activity,
“If there's a porch pirate situation or anything. They can look at a map and see who has cameras, go to the house, talk to the people, and then with their permission, then get downloaded files from their camera system,” Bell said. “It saves us from going door to door looking for cameras. It's on one big, great, big map, and it's all of Lake County.”
According to Value Penguin, more than a third of Americans said they’ve had a package stolen with more than half reporting it happened in the last year. However, not as many are opting to report the stolen goods to the police. The survey found only 17% of people alerted authorities about their missing package.
“It's a random more of a crime of opportunity. They'll drive up and down the streets. They look for packages on porches,” Bell said. “Some of them have been known to follow delivery trucks, wait till the delivery was made, and then immediately go up and snatch a package.”
Swiping a package off a porch is misdemeanor theft in Mentor and something the department takes seriously. Thieves can face up to six months behind bars, even for a first offense, and up to a $1,000 fine.
Bell urges residents to keep an eye on what’s happening in their neighborhood and if they see a suspicious car or theft in progress, jot down the plate and contact the police.
“A couple of years ago we did catch porch pirates that were stealing in Mentor and that was off of information from a resident,” Bell said. “They saw something suspicious. They gave us a call. Our guys were close to the area, saw the vehicle, made the traffic stop. And lo and behold, this person had packages from numerous houses in our area.”