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Porch Pirates in Manteca are random
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Porch pirates, the bane of the e-commerce era, are not as prevalent in Manteca as some fear.

And instead of organized rings such as those that will often steal cars, the pilfering of packages dropped off on doorsteps by the likes of Amazon or United Parcel Service in Manteca appears to be a crime of randomness as much as opportunity.

Based on reports of package thefts of deliveries left outside of homes handled by the Manteca Police Department, there were 28 such incidents in 2017 and 24 in 2018 through Nov. 30.

Police Chief Jodie Estarziau noted based on footage from Ring Bell as well as traditional surveillance cameras at Manteca homes that have been hit, most of the culprits are on foot as opposed to shadowing a delivery van or randomly driving down streets scouting porches for packages.

In one such instance footage shows a young couple walking their dog past a home and then quickly returning after they apparently spotted a package that they could steal. In other porch theft footage shows young skaters doing the same thing — they pass a home and then double back after seeing a package.

Estarziau said based on how the front of your home is designed there are steps you can take to minimize the chance of being a target of porch pirates. At her home that has a small front patio accessed through a wrought iron gate before reaching the front door, she places plywood on the porch side to block the view from the street. She noted delivery personnel simply reach over the gate and plywood and place packages on the porch. Estarziau noted that she has yet to lose a package to theft.

Other strategies include:

uHaving packages delivered to a neighbor that you know will be home or using the Ring Bell app on your phone to check to see if a package has arrive so you can call a neighbor to pick it up.

uAsking permission, if possible, to have a package delivered to your place of employment.

Estarziau said the department has contacted delivery firms such as Federal Express to possibly set up a sting operation but companies have balked because they are concerned they may be putting their drivers as risk.

A number of East Coast departments in urban areas where there is a high proliferation of porch pirates including those who apparently are stealing packaging in much the same organized manner that some shoplift, police have taken to having bait packages with GPS tracking devices placed in them left on the doorsteps of volunteer homeowners. Also inside the package is an item of value. In some instances police have placed items of a high enough price that stealing the package would constitute a felony prompting some to argue about whether that such a move would pass constitutional muster.

In some neighborhoods where porch pirates are a major problem, Amazon has been working with local law enforcement by placing GPS devices in packages they ship to such areas.

Estarziau said the department will revisit the use of a sting-style operation if a trend develops that a Manteca neighborhood is becoming a repeat target. As it is now, incidents of porch piracy are random and not concentrated in one area.

To better monitor trends, the department is creating a separate theft category for packages.

The police chief noted mail theft — that is a constant threat in Manteca as well as elsewhere — continues to have department resources committed to combatting it on an ongoing basis.

“Mail theft often leads to much bigger issues such as identity theft and financial theft,” the police said.

The department in recent years has made several major arrests involving mail stolen from hundreds of residents and thousands of pieces of mail.

Steps law enforcement officers recommend you take to minimize your exposure to being a victim of identity theft via mail or phone scams include:

Taking outgoing mail and drop it in a blue postal box or into a drop slot inside a post office.

Retrieving your incoming mail every day with no exceptions. 

Minimizing your “foot print” by having no more than three credit cards — one for larger purchases, one that has a fairly low spending limit, and one that is an ATM card to access bank accounts.

Record all of your credit card information and how to contact firms in a safe place at home so you can immediately call them when you either lose cards or if they are stolen.

Don’t ever provide information on any of your accounts to someone that calls you even if it is PG&E threatening to cut off your power in three days. Instead hang up, go to your statement and call the number on that and not one that the caller may have given you — and asked the representative that answers whether they are trying to contact you.

Check your credit report twice a year to look for unauthorized activity. Adams noted banks typically provide one free credit report a year.

Remembering that the Internal Revenue Service does not call taxpayers out of the blue — period. Their communication is always by snail mail although have an established conversation going with the IRS they may conduct that by phone.

Never fall for the “grandma scam” where a young relative is calling up in desperate need of help. Always try to call the parents or even the young relative in question back using numbers that you have and not the ones the caller provides to try and verify if there is an issue.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email