VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN) – With the holiday season upon us and a shift towards online shopping, police are warning shoppers to be diligent about their deliveries and thieves to think about the consequences before taking someone’s belongings. 

Sgt. Doug Nagel with the Vandalia Police Department, said the best way to protect your packages is taking steps to prevent thieves from getting access to them in the first place.  

“If you’re getting packages delivered, be aware and pay attention to the shipper’s updates online, which is easy to do so you know when it’s going to arrive,” he said. 

Nagel also recommends using those same tracking services to alert neighbors and trusted friends about the arrival of packages so they can be picked up and kept in a safe place until they’re ready to be collected by the owner. He said sending those items to an alternate address, or to friends or family members who may be home more frequently may also prevent them from being taken by the wrong person. But, when theses options aren’t possible, the next best way to hold thieves accountable is technology.

“What the porch pirates…aren’t aware of is that all social media as well as all of the cameras that are available…a lot of people have those door cameras that record every moment. So yeah, you may not get caught now, however, within a matter of moments, the homeowner can put your pictures out, probably find your information and get it out.”

In the City of Dayton, police even use bait devices to deter theft and find items that have been stolen.

Nagel said thieves often steal packages not knowing what’s inside, and may do a number of different things with the items once they’ve been taken. Sometimes that involves selling the items if they’re of value, giving them as gifts, or keeping them for themselves. But Nagel said the people willing to take that risk may have severe consequences to pay. 

“So if you’re talking under $1,000, you’re looking at a misdemeanor. If you’re talking over $1,000, you could be looking at felony. And in addition to that is, if it’s used in the performance of their job and you’re delaying that, you could be looking at further charges that way,” he said.   

If the gifts you purchase do make it into your possession and are able to be used or exchanged in your home, Sgt. Nagel said you should also be careful about what you do with the packaging, taking care not to tip off potential thieves to what may be inside the house. 

“After you celebrate the holidays or after you open the package, it doesn’t matter whether it’s at Christmas time…or if it’s all year long. The big thing to remember is to break down the packaging. If you can, put it in the recycling can or the garbage wherever it belongs. But break it down and don’t just put that right at the curb.”

This may be especially true for families who aren’t home during the day, as daytime burglars may be on the lookout for the right time to snatch items. He also urges those traveling with presents in tow to cover them, or put them out of sight to prevent theft and damage to vehicles over the holiday season. 

If you do have a package stolen, Nagel said it’s important to check with the shipper to ensure it was delivered. If it was, he said the next step would be to reach out to your local police department to report the theft, as others in the area may have been targeted or may have seen something that could help solve the mystery of the missing item. 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of punishment,” said Nagel. “So you can take a minor little step and you don’t have to worry about following up with court proceedings later because somebody broke into your house.”