Law enforcement agencies in the Sacramento area aim to catch package thieves this holiday season using the technology in bait cars and bait bikes.
With online shopping on the rise, packages left on porches have become increasingly attractive targets for thieves. At least two area police departments, Sacramento and Roseville, have responded with decoy packages like the decoy bikes parked around Sacramento. They are equipped with GPS devices that allow police to track the thief.
Sacramento’s bait bikes have produced more than 100 arrests since late 2013.
The package program, introduced a couple of years ago, has yet to produce many arrests in Sacramento. Officer Matthew McPhail, a Sacramento police spokesman, said he knows of only two bait packages so far this holiday season. But he said one arrest can have a significant impact, since one person can steal multiple packages. Officers approach residents and get permission before leaving the baited packages on their porches.
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One arrest came Friday about 9:15 p.m., when Sacramento police officers were alerted to a bait package being taken in the 1800 block of 25th Street in midtown Sacramento. Officers found Michael Lumford, 59, with the package.
He was booked into jail on a misdemeanor charge of suspicion of theft and a misdemeanor warrant for unlawful camping on public property.
Earlier this month, a bait package in Tahoe Park also resulted in an arrest.
Roseville police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther said Roseville also is using bait packages. Although none has been stolen so far this season, porch pirates are active in the community, with 17 package thefts reported from Nov. 1 through Friday.
Gunther said the department has received a lot of good tips from neighbors, as well as surveillance photos to help identify thieves. The department posted on its Facebook page surveillance photos of a man taking a package from a porch on Vista Creek Drive on the afternoon of Nov. 25 in the hopes someone will recognize him.
Roseville detectives also are investigating a Dec. 12 incident in which a package delivered to a closed business in the 200 block of Vernon Street was accepted by someone loitering outside, who was not authorized to act on behalf of the business. Later that day, the stolen items – a guitar and a ukulele – were advertised for sale online. The investigating officer interviewed the suspect and forwarded a report to the Placer County District Attorney’s Office recommending prosecution, Gunther said, but noted that the stolen musical instruments are still missing.
McPhail said Sacramento police are planting bait packages in neighborhoods where porch pirates have been particularly active, such as midtown and Tahoe Park. Those areas “have a bit higher density and a higher volume of people coming and going,” he said. “It’s harder to recognize if someone is a stranger as opposed to a neighborhood that is more cohesive and tight-knit.”
He stressed the importance of reporting package thefts to police because those reports help determine where bait packages are deployed.
McPhail urged residents to try to schedule package deliveries for a time when they know they will be home, or to have them delivered to a neighbor or relative. He also noted that companies like FedEx and UPS often provide customers the option of picking up packages at distribution centers.