This Is How Amazon Is Helping Jersey City Police Catch ‘Porch Pirates’

December 14, 2018, 7:47 PM UTC

Amazon is helping New Jersey police conduct a sting operation to catch would-be thieves snatching delivered packages on neighborhood porches, the Associated Press reports.

The Jersey City Police Department is installing doorbell cameras at the homes of volunteers and planting boxes provided by Amazon outside home doors with the catch that some of these boxes contain GPS tracking devices. When a thief takes the box, the police can use the video or GPS to track the culprit.

The system has already proved successful.

“We had a box out on the street for three minutes before it was taken,” Capt. James Crecco, who’s heading the police operation, told the AP. “We thought it was a mistake at first.”

The suspect was caught, but the speed at which he or she acted exemplifies the pervasiveness of this issue.

Online shopping is booming: about 10% of all retail sales are thanks to sites like Amazon, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and that figure is steadily climbing. This means more packages are being delivered to front porches and left unattended until the homeowner arrives.

Amazon offers package pick-up at a company locker located in certain stores, like Whole Foods, to avoid this issue. FedEx, too, allows customers to hold packages at some grocery or drug stores. While this system may provide security, it doesn’t hold a candle to the convenience of home delivery.

A study by insuranceQuotes last year found about 26 million Americans, or 8% of the population, have had a package stolen from their front porch. Unless you have a doorbell camera, it’s hard to catch these so-called “porch pirates.”

It’s recommended you have your package delivered when someone will be at home or require a signature for drop-off. You can also purchase a parcel box that allows the delivery person access, but prevents theft. Amazon even offers in-home delivery for those who use the Amazon Key Smart Lock: homeowners can allow the delivery person temporary access to drop off packages just inside the door.

The Jersey City police hope to catch thieves before they snatch up someone’s holiday gifts. The program has undergone legal review and was approved by a municipal prosecutor. Similar programs have been held in areas across the country, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Hayward, California.