MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Some police departments are trying new methods to catch criminals known as “porch pirates.”
These alleged thieves sneak into yards and steal packages left on door steps.
Some officers are now turning to technology for help, but critics say that raises privacy concerns.
In Houston and Los Angeles these alleged porch pirates are quick and brazen.
In Campbell, California homeowner Terry Bohlan’s security cameras caught a man approaching his porch before apparently making off with his delivery.
“It’s one of those things in life you just don’t want you to go through,” Bohlan said.
That motivated him to work with his local police department who now uses his porch to drop off bait packages hoping to lure criminals.
Inside a regular shipping box, officers pack a common delivery item along with a GPS tracking device.
They want to keep that under wraps so criminals don’t know what to look for.
“We found that a lot of times these thieves are opening up the boxes before they even leave to make sure it’s something that they want,” said Captain Gary Berg with the Campbell Police Department. “They are getting picky.”
The programs have been a success in several cities across the country.
In southern California, Arcadia police say more than 100 suspected thieves have taken the bait.
While experts say these operations are legal some say they should be regulated by court order or warrant.
“Citizens should absolutely be concerned about tracking technologies and law enforcement’s unfettered access to tracking technologies,” said David Gray with University of Maryland School of Law.
He is the author of “The 4th Amendment in the Age of Surveillance”.
Another concern is that some departments are deliberately putting higher priced items in the bait packages which could result in a felony conviction.
“Bumping up the value of what’s in the boxes could raise some concerns from the point of view of fair and due process,” Gray said.
To avoid being a victim, police say you should have packages delivered to a location where someone can receive them in person, like a workplace or neighbor’s house.