Authorities warn porch pirates are on the prowl and have already snagged packages

MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- During a quick drive around Manheim Township, Lancaster County FOX43 spotted package after package outside a handful of front doors.

"The home with the package out front is the home that gets targeted," said Sergeant Michael Piacentino of Manheim Township Police Department.

Sergeant Piacentino says Manheim Township police officers investigate dozens of thefts every month. That includes shoplifting, car thefts, and when crooks snag people's packages.

In fact, a man stole a package from a home in Manheim Township on November 26th.  The doorbell camera system captured the crook in the act.

"Over the course of time, the numbers stay the same - it's between high 30s and low 50s of theft every month, but we know from our experience, this time of year, our package thefts are high," explained Piacentino.

When porch pirates steal someone's package, that person might think to call the United States Postal Service; however, a spokeswoman for the postal service says once mail is delivered, its obligation to the customer is done.

"I did in fact see if we had statistics available for reports of stolen packages and was unable to find that information, but essentially, what we would suggest to somebody if they believe an item has been stolen, report it to your local police," explained Karen Mazurkiewicz.

Mazurkiewicz adds people should also call the United States Postal Inspection Service, which investigates those crimes.

According to its website, inspectors arrested nearly 2,500 people for mail and package thefts in 2018.

With recommendations from Manheim Township Police and the United States Postal Service, FOX43 created a list of tips to keep porch pirates from targeting your home:

  1. Immediately bring a package inside once it's delivered by the carrier.
  2. If you will not be home at the time of delivery, request the carrier deliver any packages to your side door, garage, or even your workplace.
  3. Request signature on delivery of packages, if possible.
  4. Use a hold for pickup option and collect packages at your local post office.
  5. Use tracking numbers and delivery notifications so you can receive text and email updates on your package.
  6. Ask family members, trusted neighbors, and/or friends to accept deliveries on your behalf or ask them to pick up your packages for you.
  7. Many shipping companies now allow you to request a delivery time or time-frame. Schedule packages for when someone is home.
  8. Install a smart security camera or doorbell camera; those security devices have helped law enforcement catch porch pirates.
  9. Have packaged shipped to an area store.
  10. Keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles and people in your neighborhood. Report suspicious activity to your local police department as it is occurring. Calling after the fact makes it much harder to thwart potential criminal activity.
  11.  Remember - mail carriers will be working around the clock this month, and be sure to check for mail and/or packages even when they're least expected.

"Be prepared to get it first thing in the morning, late in the day, and even look on your porch on Sunday, if you're suspecting something," added Mazurkiewicz.

You can also help postal service workers out by having porch lights on, and be sure to shovel a path for them, if there is any snow.

FOX43 called the Postal Inspection Service to find out more detailed information about package thefts -- specifically, where it happens in Southcentral Pennsylvania, how often, and how the numbers compare to other times of the year. Over the phone, a spokesperson said he cannot release that information over the phone and advised FOX43 fill out a Freedom of Information Act Request, which we have.

Manheim Township Police department created a video to educate neighbors about porch pirates.

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