TYLER, Texas (KETK) – As the holiday season approaches, more people are starting to buy presents. Because of this, East Texans should be careful of porch pirates that try to steal packages.

A 2021 study on holiday packages revealed, 40% of people from a group of 1,009 said they are doing all or most of their holiday shopping online. This year, two thirds more Americans also said they had a delivery package stolen from their doorstep than the previous year.

“Most of these thefts occur when the packages are visible. It’s kind of a crime of opportunity. You have these thieves that instead of going out and finding a job, they feel like the best thing to do is to drive by through neighborhoods, looking at porches and trying to find items they can steal,” said Sgt. Larry Christian, Smith County Sheriff’s Department.

There is now a harsh penalty for those who steal presents, in Sept. a new law went into effect.

“If a person steals anywhere between one to nine pieces of mail or packages, that’s a Class A misdemeanor. If it’s 10, but less than 30, that automatically jumps up to a state jail felony, and anything 30 and above is a felony of the third degree,” said Sgt. Christian.

If you’re planning on leaving town for the holidays and do not have a P.O. or secured mailbox, asking a neighbor to watch for your packages is another way of making sure they’re not stolen.

Tadacia Williams, Tyler resident, said her neighbors are willing to make sure her packages are safe for her.

“If a I have a package and I know what time it’s coming, I’m like ‘Hey, if you see a package out, do you mind getting it for me?’ The friendlier you are with your neighbors, the more protected you feel in your community,” said Williams.

In 2020, porch pirates stole a 65-inch TV, a $1,651 wheelchair and a $200 golf club and more from people.

AARP shared the following tips so you can avoid being someone’s next target:

  1. Pick up your package as soon as it arrives. You can closely monitor your package by tracking it and arrange for someone to be home when it is scheduled to arrive.

2. Have the sender require a signature for delivery.

3. Pick up your package someplace else. You can have your package shipped to a store or retailer and pick it up there instead.

  • Amazon uses Hub Counter and self-service Hub Lockers for package pickup at retail locations, including some grocers and convenience stores.
  • FedEx Delivery Manager lets recipients redirect delivery to a nearby FedEx office, Walgreens store or other location. In plugging the service, FedEx says package tracking only tells you when a package is delivered to your home but won’t protect the item. It also warns that security cameras may not deter crooks and that lock boxes on your porch “can be expensive, difficult to install and take up valuable porch space.”
  • UPS Access Point Network has more than 19,000 pickup locations, including the UPS Store, CVS and Michaels stores.
  • U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Package Intercept lets consumers — for a fee — stop delivery or redirect certain packages that are not out for delivery or already delivered. This is not a guaranteed service and conditions apply. That said, U.S. mail and packages can be held at no cost (see Step 4, below).

4. Going out of town? Tell USPS to hold your mail and packages at the post office or until you request home delivery. Mail may be held for up to 30 days.

FedEx and UPS can also hold your packages, but they have different conditions that apply.

5. Have the package placed out of sight. There are lockable porch boxes that people can purchase to keep their presents secure.

Short of something like that, instructing a delivery person to place a package behind a planter, bench or column on your porch can help kept it hidden, said Ben Stickle, who has conducted research on porch piracy.

UPS My Choice lets recipients leave instructions about where packages should be left, such as at a back door, on the side of a house or with a neighbor. That service is free, but requesting delivery of a package to another address has a fee.

6. Consider a door camera for security. With some devices, you can use your phone, tablet or personal computer to see, hear and speak to anyone who has rang your doorbell or triggered motion detectors. However, as Stickle’s study shows and FedEx cautions, some crooks simply ignore door cams.

That said, if you happen to catch a thief in action, save the footage and alert the police. If it’s U.S. mail that’s been stolen, postal customers are urged to save the video and contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by phone (877-876-2455).

7. Stay informed and watchful, and be a good neighbor. “Alert the police or other neighbors if you have somebody who looks like they’re stealing packages,” said Stickle.

He also mentioned that thieves can get creative to steal from people. Some will pretend to be delivery drivers or carry fake packages or clipboards while they take other people’s items.