Cops go after porch pirates with dummy Amazon boxes and GPS trackers

Porch pirates in Jersey City, New Jersey better watch out. Amazon has teamed up with cops there to track down the thieves using dummy packages.

Data shows that as many as 20 percent of online shoppers in the U.S. have suffered at the hands of criminals who steal packages left in front of their homes by delivery personnel.

The New Jersey city has had enough, and this week launched a sting operation using Ring video doorbells and GPS trackers inside the decoy boxes. Five arrests were made on the first day alone, with the first one coming within just a few minutes of the operation’s launch.

Amazon supplied the necessary equipment for the crime-fighting program. Police then worked with homeowners living in neighborhoods regularly targeted by porch pirates.

Each box contains an item of little value, but, critically, also has a GPS tracker hidden inside. When the package moves, the tracker alerts cops who can then decide what course of action to take. Footage from the video doorbells also helps to provide extra evidence following any arrests.

Jersey City’s mayor, Steven Fulop, told the BBC that package thefts are a frequent complaint at community meetings, with the issue becoming all the more serious during the holiday season as online shoppers increase their spending.

Mayor Fulop said the police don’t always immediately arresting the person that stole the package, explaining how in some cases they choose to hold back so they can track the movements of the thief in an effort to learn more about their wider operation, such as where they try to sell the goods that they steal.

The mayor said that in the last year, Jersey City police has received around 400 reports of package theft, but added that the actual number of thefts is far bigger as many victims try to resolve the issue with Amazon directly and don’t bother reporting the crime to the authorities.

Amazon and Jersey City officials shared data to find the locations most commonly targeted by porch pirates, and worked with residents there to set up the stings. Jersey City’s police chief, Michael Kelly, told the Associated Press that the program had undergone a legal review and had been approved by a municipal prosecutor.

Incredibly, within just 10 minutes of the operation going live on Tuesday, December 11, the first box was nabbed by a thief. Using the GPS data, cops were able to quickly arrest the perpetrator.

Worried about porch pirates? Digital Trends has some great ideas for a bunch of ways to ensure your online order is there waiting for you when you arrive home.

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