67ºF

Harris County launches initiative targeting those who steal people’s packages from their porch

HOUSTON – With the Christmas shopping season happening in the middle of a pandemic, more people are expected to shop from home. And that could be a field day for porch pirates, those who steal other’s packages from their porch.

Porch theft is a problem that seems to grow exponentially each year around the holidays. There are no local statistics for the number of package thefts. But last year, 36% of consumers queried in a national survey conducted by C+R Research reported having packages stolen.

But this year, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department is rolling out a new tool to try to stop them. Earlier this month, the county began planting decoy packages secretly equipped with tracking devices.

“We coordinated with FedEx. We got a list of thefts in their jurisdiction. So we decided to go with this area in the Katy area because of the amount of theft reported to FedEx,” said Harris County Theft Investigator Javier Urena.

How it works

The Harris County deputies plant a phony present, like a cell phone in the decoy box, which is also equipped with a hidden tracker. Then, the package is left on a doorstep in a high theft area.

Once the package is taken, the sensor inside sends out a signal to officers in the area that allows them to track the package and the thief who took it.

“Prior to this it’s all been reactive, where we have to follow up and take the lead. And we filed a few charges. However, using the trackers it’s going to be new this year,” Ureana said.

More new trackers will be deployed next week. Deputies hoping they’ll catch more porch pirates and to deter others.