York County porch pirates getting picked off by doorbell cams, cops say

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch
Photo Illustration

'Tis the season for porch pirates and box bandits.

They are the most common names attributed to thieves who cruise through neighborhoods during the holiday season and steal packages off of people's porches or doorsteps.

It has been a major issue nationally for years as more than 11 million people had packages stolen from their homes in 2018, according to a national survey conducted by LeanPlum, a business analytics firm.

And with 95% of consumers expected to purchase half or more of their Christmas gifts online this year, people are turning to spy-proofing to help fend off those thieves.

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That approach has led to a decrease in the number of thefts in York City, as well as six townships and two boroughs covered by the Northern Regional County Regional Police, according to the public information officers for both police departments.

"We've only had two incidents this year where an Xbox and iPad were stolen off a porch," Northern York County Regional Police Lt. Gregg Anderson said Thursday. "These kind of incidents certainly increase this time of year, but we've had a decrease.

"I would call the decrease in these types of incidents, 'Vigilance,'" he added. "People have taken steps to make sure their stuff is not stolen. They have installed security systems or a doorbell with video (capabilities) and that's been a big help.

York City Police Department Officer Derek Hartman concedes there have been some incidents over the years involving porch pirates or box bandits, but he said those numbers also are declining because of increased home security.

"I know it's definitely happened over the years here, and sometimes you get a rash of incidents in some areas, but we're not getting a ton of reports on it anymore," Hartman said. "I'm not saying it hasn't happened at all (this year), but it's happening a lot less frequently than it used to."

Amazon, UPS, FedEx and U.S. Postal Service offer numerous delivery options for safer deliveries, and major retailers are offering in-store pickups.

In February, Northern York County police formed a partnership with home-security company Ring to help residents connect with neighbors and access local crime and safety information in real time.

It was the first department in Pennsylvania to officially join forces with Ring and embrace its Neighbors app, Deputy Chief David Lash said.

In addition to investing in home security, consumers can use alternate shipping destinations, customize their delivery and enlist the help of neighbors, police said. 

"It's really an easy crime for somebody to commit," Hartman said."You're walking by a house and you just stop and pick up the package, and you're gone.

"It's good to see people taking the extra step now to prevent this kind of theft from happening."