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Police warn online shoppers of package thieves as holiday shopping season begins

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Package theft (copy)

A photo from Taylor Best's security camera captured a man stealing packages off the porch of her Goose Creek home in November 2017. Best said the man has been arrested. Taylor Best/Provided

As the holiday season kicks into full gear and online shopping increases, police are reminding shoppers to remain aware of potential package thefts. 

A new SecurityNerd survey finds that the pandemic will dramatically change retail holiday shopping behaviors with more than half of consumers keeping out of stores this holiday season, an October report by the Associated Press states.

According to the survey 54% of shopper plan to minimize in-store holiday shopping compared to years past with 38% planning to ship directly from retailer to recipient. The increase and online shopping could lead to an increase in reports of package theft. 

“Despite the fact that festive get-togethers will see a decrease, most people’s enthusiasm for giving gifts to loved ones is unwavering. Holiday gift shipping is set to break records and is likely to result in an increase of holiday package theft from front porches or doorsteps,” says Julie Evans, consumer safety editor at SecurityNerd, an online resource that educates and empowers consumers about home security solutions.

Package thieves, also known as "porch pirates," reportedly steal items purchased online as they arrive to the shopper's home. 

Capt. Marty Sawyer with the Aiken Department of Public Safety said the city has reports of packages being stolen throughout the year but reminds shoppers to take precautions as holiday shopping begins. 

Public Safety first recommends to get your package off the porch as soon as possible. Tracking a package's delivery online and opting to receiving delivery alerts can help shoppers know when to be home to accept the package. 

SecurityNerd suggests that online shoppers take advantage of providing delivery instructions and specify a safe area for packages to be dropped off at their home. Some companies may allow shoppers to require a signature for a delivery to be completed. 

As a safety precaution, Sawyer encourages those who shop online often to invest in surveillance where packages are usually dropped off. 

"Have cameras on your front porch like a doorbell camera so at least you can see who might come up and steal it," Sawyer said. "Anytime we have camera footage, the odds of solving the crime goes up drastically,” Sawyer said.

Online shoppers are urged to contact the police once a package has been stolen. Owners of the stolen package should report the item's serial number to assist police in locating the item. 

“That way if it’s traded or pawned or we happen to recover it, we can run the number in the computer to get the item back to you,” Sawyer said. 

Stealing a package off of a porch can be charged as a simple larceny or grand larceny, depending on the value of the item stolen. 

Upon conviction, those guilty of simple larceny charge could be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned up to 30 days.

Those convicted of a grand larceny charge could face a fine with an amount determined by the discretion of the court or imprisoned not more than five years if the value of the stolen property is more than $2,000 but less than $10,000. 

If the stolen property is valued at $10,000 or more, the guilty party could face up to 10 years of imprisonment.

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