PARMA, Ohio — The flood of holiday packages is in full force and police in Parma have a message for anyone thinking about snatching those gifts off of porches this holiday season: don’t do it.
A year ago, the department rolled out Project STOP: Stop Theft Of Packages. The program has officers out actively trying to catch the crooks with technology at their fingertips, ensuring your packages make it to you.
“It’s a crime of opportunity and thieves know that there’s going to be an increase in the number of parcels at the Christmas season,” said Chief Prosecutor and Law Director Tim Dobeck.
This year, the department and the city are being explicit about letting the public know they’re trying to catch perpetrators in the act. The whole goal of Project STOP is to deter people from even coming to Parma to steal packages.
“We want to let our residents know ‘hey don’t be afraid to call us if this has happened to you,’” said Sgt. David D’Eusano. “We work hard for our money today, the dollar doesn’t go as far today as it did years ago.”
The department uses a technology called assisted patrol. It’s essentialy a GPS tracker placed in a bait box that police can track, sound an alert and even communicate through. Police work with victims who have had packages stolen to place the bait box on their property in an attempt to catch repeat offenders.
“Unfortunately, when you take something from a porch, it’s less of an offense than if they go into a home and steal something,” said Kammy Shuman, councilwoman for Ward 7. “That’s our goal is to deter people from even entering the property of our residents.”
Right now, there is legislation in the works at the state level that could increase the penalty for stealing a package off of a porch to a felony. Currently, that punishment can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a fifth-degree felony, depending on the value of the parcel that was stolen.
“It should be a felony, for coming onto your property for the specific purpose of stealing a parcel,” Dobeck said. “It’s bold for a thief to come onto your property, and just because they don’t cross the plane of your door doesn’t mean that it’s not any more egregious of a crime.”
The police department has fielded thirty reports of stolen packages this year, but law enforcement fears there are more residents out there who haven’t reported the thefts. If you’ve been a victim of having a package stolen, you’re urged to contact the police. Officials may even want to work with you to set up the assisted patrol technology and deploy a bait box on your property.
“Some of the stuff can be very expensive, think of the cost of things,” D’eusanio said. “Christmas gifts for children that are coming to your house, just before the holidays. If it’s a specialty item, now you’re out. You feel violated."
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