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Police say ‘porch pirates’ look for easy targets during holidays

As last-minute Christmas gift deliveries are made this week, Las Vegas area police want to remind the public that neighborhood crime this time of year often starts at your own front porch.

More commonly known as “porch pirates” or “porch predators,” these thieves prey on your home’s entrance, searching for unattended packages to steal — and sometimes, even an opportunity to break in.

North Las Vegas police spokesman Eric Leavitt said this month that porch pirates are known to follow delivery trucks into neighborhoods, a ruse that often even gets them into gated communities around the Las Vegas Valley.

“These specific criminals are looking for easy targets,” he said. “Grabbing the package and going takes less than five seconds.”

But, he warns, just because this “grab-and-go crime” is usually quick and simple doesn’t mean the consequences for thieves, if caught, aren’t severe.

“You’re looking at three felonies right off the bat in most cases,” Leavitt said. “A lot of it will depend on what is stolen, but these criminals are usually on a roll by the time we get to them. So we can get you on possession of stolen property, theft or grand larceny, and a conspiracy charge if you’re working with others.”

And though in the past it had been difficult to catch porch pirates, Leavitt said the rising popularity of live camera security systems, such as the Ring Video Doorbell, have helped police identify more of these thieves.

Earlier this year, for example, well-positioned, high quality surveillance cameras helped police in the northwest valley identify a masked porch pirate who took more than $4,000 worth of merchandise from someone’s front doorstep.

But if you can’t afford a surveillance system, Leavitt said, there are plenty of other ways to outsmart porch pirates:

— Have packages delivered to where you are, not where you aren’t. Consider having packages sent to your place of employment or to a friend’s house.

— When possible, include delivery instructions with your order: Ask that packages be placed in less conspicuous areas, such as behind a planter or a garbage can, or delivered to the front office if you live in an apartment complex.

— Track your packages, and turn on delivery notifications. Most major shipping companies offer free notifications via text message or email.

— Keep your options open: Many shipping companies now allow you to request a delivery time, and some companies, such as Amazon, even offer secured locker services for packages.

— Know your neighbors, and work together to thwart porch pirates and predators by keeping an eye out for each other’s deliveries or for any suspicious activity in the neighborhood.

— Don’t ignore a knock at the door, but don’t open the door for strangers, either. Burglars often are looking for unoccupied homes, but opening the door could give them an opportunity to force themselves into your home. Instead, police suggest saying through the door, “We don’t answer the door for people we don’t know.”

— When no one’s home, trick porch predators into thinking the residence is occupied. Keep a light on, or have music or a television on in the background.

— “See something, say something.” Keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles in your neighborhood, and call 311 to report any suspicious activity or 911 to report an active crime.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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