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Don’t get Grinched at holiday season

Brookhaven’s police chief would like to see a few Grinches get pinched while curbing package thefts.

“People seek out opportunities to steal,” said Chief Kenneth Collins.

He believes the holidays bring out the criminals who stalk individuals and case neighborhoods to do their Christmas “shopping.”

“They’re looking for easy targets,” he said. “They keep stalking to see when you’re there and when you’re not there. They’ll break in and steal all your presents. They’ll be the Grinch.”

While the ease of online purchases attracts shoppers, it comes with a few drawbacks when it comes to delivery. Reported thefts rise sharply at the holidays because thieves figure the boxes are less likely to be dog treats or diapers and more likely to be re-sellable electronics or other gifts.

“Criminals practice to be better criminals,” he said.

Brookhaven PD hopes to outsmart the criminals by using a pilot program involving bait packages. An undisclosed number of packages are being placed on homeowners’ front porches with permission, Collins said. But these real-looking mail-order packages don’t contain Christmas presents. They’re equipped with GPS trackers that allow police to receive alerts when they’re moved.

Officers are notified when a package is in motion. Police hope to track the package to a stationary location and take the individual or individuals responsible for the theft into custody.

The decoy boxes with GPS trackers are being used where there has been a high concentration of stolen packages, he said. But other areas are getting bait parcels as well so that criminals won’t know the faux from the real deal.

Police are working with residents who volunteered to participate in the project. To volunteer your porch, call BPD at 601-833-2424.

To protect packages, the police suggest requesting the delivery company have drivers hide the package rather than leave it in plain sight.

Shoppers can also ask for a delivery confirmation signature which ensures the package won’t be waiting on the porch.

This reduces the likelihood that the package will get stolen, Collins said.

Having a visible security camera focused on the porch area can also deter a criminal.

It’s also always beneficial to track a package to know when it will arrive and ask a neighbor keep an eye out for it.

Amazon, eBay, FedEx, UPS and USPS all have their own recovery service in the event your package is stolen.

Recovery services contacts for stolen packages are:

Amazon: 888-280-4331

eBay: 866-961-9253

FedEx: 800-463-3339

USPS: 800-275-8777

Brookhaven police also offer the following suggestions so shoppers don’t become targets.

• Pay attention to your surroundings. Get off your cell phone. Watch what you’re doing.

• If you get so many presents that you can’t put them in your trunk, then take some home and come back.

• Park your car in busy areas of the parking lot under a light if possible.

• Ask for escorts from the store if you feel uncomfortable

• Check that your vehicle is locked.

• Leave valuables in the trunk.

• Shop with friends.

• Watch for fraudulent activity on credit or debit cards. Call company or bank immediately if detected.

• Don’t carry large amounts of cash.

• Carry cash in unconventional places. Wallets and billfolds are easily targeted.