Vargas: Seven tips to prevent ‘porch pirates’ from ruining Christmas


Editor’s note: We are reposting this column from a year ago as Christmas approaches.

In the pecking order of bad guys, crooks and vermin, “porch pirates” are among the lowest of low.

It’s bad enough when thieves break into someone’s car in a parking lot.

But walking up to the front of a stranger’s home and stealing their kids’ Christmas presents?

Thanks to the wonders of technology we can watch these cretins in action.

What irritates me is the nonchalant manner in which these pirates pillage. Most of the time they don’t even look over their shoulder to make sure the coast is clear. They just walk up and help themselves. Apparently it’s an equal opportunity profession. I’ve seen as many women as men looking to hit the jackpot – and by jackpot, I mean the expensive electronic device you ordered for your difficult-to-please brother-in-law.

Package thieves rarely use the stuff they steal. They will usually sell it on the street for pennies on the dollar, or trade your goods for drugs. The more sophisticated ones post them on Craigslist, advertising them as gifts they never opened.

Delivery drivers are now trained to see if they are being followed. I can just imagine them driving along checking their mirrors and making sudden stops just to check their tail.

What is perhaps most frustrating: the crime is just a misdemeanor.

Once released on citation, the crooks can steal to their hearts’ content until they get caught again or the court finally catches up with them (assuming they don’t have a record, have stolen items worth more than $900 dollars or are on probation or parole).

I believe there should be additional penalties for crimes like this.

Call it the Grinch enhancement – extra jail time for crimes committed just before Christmas.

Police could post their pictures so we could share in the satisfaction of their capture.

Shame can be a powerful deterrent.

For now, we must be a sensible. It doesn’t matter how safe your neighborhood is; you could be a target.

Follow some of the basic tips to protect your packages:

– Have the package delivered to your workplace if it is allowed or to a trusted neighbor or friend who is more likely to be home.

– Choose a shipping option that requires you to sign for delivery or track the delivery status online so you can try to be home when the package arrives. Some retailers or shipping companies even offer text messages that alert you when items have been delivered

– Ask the shipping company to hold your package for customer pick-up at their local facility; some offer locker pickup locations.

– If you do not receive your shipment on time, track your package to confirm delivery.

– If the item was delivered and you did not receive it, report the theft or loss to the original company and the shipping company.

– If you suspect your package has been stolen, see if any neighbors have security footage of the area.

– If think your package was stolen, call police.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at

Note: The video was is a compilation that can be found on You Tube here.