Atlanta a hotbed for thefts by ‘porch pirates’ as holidays near

As package thefts increase, where can Atlanta residents turn to keep their gifts safe?

With the holiday season upon us, two things are certain to happen: the shopping rush that starts on Black Friday and criminals will seek to snag those holiday packages from your home.

Atlanta is ranked in the top 10 of American cities for the most package thefts, according to a 2018 study conducted by Chicago-based Shorr Packaging.

The crimes - committed by people called “porch pirates” - are on the radar of Atlanta Police.

"We most certainly are aware of the rise in this crime," said Carlos Campos, the department's spokesman. It's unclear how many of these incidents occur in the city because police categorize them as thefts. However, thefts in the city are up 5 percent from last year, with porch pirate activity being part of that increase.

One way police departments have tried to thwart these crimes is by partnering with security camera companies. The devices have aided local police departments in capturing package thieves.

Atlanta police do not have contracts with any of those companies but have used footage given to them to help solve crimes. The department also has its own network of more than 11,000 cameras across the city to catch the brazen criminals.

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Cherise Jefferson said partnering with doorbell security companies such as Ring would help prevent such crimes.

Jefferson, who lives in Southwest Atlanta with her mom, use the Ring neighbors app to follow crimes in their neighborhood – including when two men tried to steal her mother’s car.

“I think [police] would be able to send proper units to protect residents because right now, it’s getting pretty bad,” she said.

Jefferson said she and her family are going to be extra vigilant this holiday season.

“We’re going to be watching out for our packages,” she said, “and of course talking to our neighbors and making sure that they’re watching, too.”

Garrett Langley, CEO of Flock, which produces license plate reading cameras, said the crimes are one of opportunity and are low risk for the criminals. About 13 percent of the cases are ever solved, he said.

“It’s not because [police aren’t] trying, but if all they have is a grainy picture of a person, it’s not enough,” Langley said.

Images from the popular Ring doorbell camera devices are used by several local police departments. The company encourages users to share their pictures or videos on its digital neighborhood watch app, called “Neighbors,” and allows many police departments to access that footage.

MORE| Meet the new neighborhood watch: License-plate reading cameras

Dunwoody became the first city in the state to use the app in February.

“We recommend having cameras because it helps up and the victim,” Dunwoody police Sgt. Robert Parsons said.

Parsons expects his department will see an uptick in package thefts closer to the Christmas holiday. The department has launched its holiday security initiatives, which include attending neighborhood watch meetings and raising awareness about porch pirate crimes.

Logistics expert Cathy Roberson said porch pirate thefts are a growing problem.

“People will literally follow the delivery truck and once the delivery is made, they’ll go right behind them and steal the package,” she said

USPS is expected to deliver more than 20 million packages per day this holiday season, and FedEx expects to deliver 33 million packages globally on Cyber Monday.

Sandy Springs-based UPS is expected to deliver more than 32 million packages per day.

RELATED| UPS launches holiday rewards program for use of Access Point delivery locations


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