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To catch package thieves, police are relying on Amazon data and decoy boxes

Fed up with thieves stealing packages left at your front door, Amazon provided police with “heat maps” showing the worst areas in a city for package theft. The data helped local cops in Albuquerque, New Mexico set up a sting operation to catch so-called “porch pirates.”

Internal emails between the Albuquerque Police Department and Amazon obtained by Motherboard show that Amazon provided the heat map data, which shows the worst zip codes for package theft over the last 60 days and 12 months.

Amazon also provided police with 30 Amazon boxes, a roll of Amazon tape, and lithium ion stickers, according to Motherboard. The sting involved police placing fake Amazon packages containing GPS trackers on stoops in specific neighborhoods, making sure the houses being used had Ring doorbell cameras to record video of a theft. Amazon itself owns Ring, which manufactures the camera.

“I hope the operation nets a lot of bad guys,” one Amazon employee wrote in a December 2018 email to his coworkers and an Albuquerque lieutenant.

It’s not clear if the sting operation caught any thieves or led to any arrests. While Amazon denied sending the heat map data to Albuquerque police, the company has provided other police departments around the country with equipment — including dummy boxes and tape — to help them catch thieves in the act, according to Motherboard.

“We appreciate the effort by local law enforcement to tackle package theft in their communities, and we remain committed to assisting them in their efforts however we can,” a spokesperson for Amazon told Motherboard.

The company has moved aggressively to stop package theft in recent years — which makes sense, since Amazon wants the process of ordering from it to be seamless and worry-free. It introduced Amazon Key, which lets delivery drivers drop off packages inside your home, in 2018. More recently, Amazon extended Key to your garage using smart garage door openers — allowing drivers to deliver packages to a relatively secure location without actually stepping foot in your house.

According to a 2017 survey by Xfinity Home, nearly one-third of Americans have had packages taken from their porch, and another 54% of Americans know someone who have had a package stolen from their stoop.

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Mathew Katz
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mathew is a news editor at Digital Trends, specializing in covering all kinds of tech news — from video games to policy. He…
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