Porch pirates are on the prowl. Package thefts are on the rise locally. A number of communities in our area report a dramatic increase in thefts and while many victims are catching the thieves red-handed on home surveillance cameras.

Porch pirates are on the prowl. Package thefts are on the rise locally. A number of communities in our area report a dramatic increase in thefts and while many victims are catching the thieves red-handed on home surveillance cameras, unless the suspects are known to police, they’re getting away with lifting your deliveries.

Tis’ the season for online holiday shopping but as you gather gifts for everyone on your list, there are plenty of thieves out there trying to finish up their shopping on your dime. "We’ve heard of people following delivery trucks around and following them and watching the driver run up to a porch, put a package down and hop in the truck and drive away... The person waits for them to clear, goes up and grabs the package,” says Lt. Robert Wilson of the Rochester Police Department.

Last week, along Chili Avenue in Rochester. A package was delivered at 5 p.m. and two minutes later a thief jumped over the railing of the home, opened the screen door and grabbed the box. Ironically, the item stolen was a home surveillance system, “I said, we got him. I was so optimistic that we got this guy finally cause like I said, stuff has been coming up missing from my porch the whole time. He didn't even realize the camera was there,” says Tyron Banks who owns the home.

But so far, no arrests in the case have been made and Banks didn’t like the response he got from Rochester Police. "They said, 'You're going to have to just eat it' and I'm like 'what?' We got a picture, we got video and I mean, something could be done... put a poster up, anything there's no telling how many of these jobs he's done,” he says.

Police say porch pirates come in and out of neighborhoods quickly so tracking them down is tough. “I think they're crimes of opportunity, where someone either follows a truck around to see where it goes or drives around neighborhoods in a serpentine fashion, just checking every house to see what's there,” Lt. Wilson from the RPD says.

So, aside from text alerts, alternate drop-off locations and signature service, what else can you do to protect your stuff? You could consider technology called “the package guard”—it’s the size of a Frisbee and is placed next to your door. It’s connected to an app that tells you when a package is delivered, “once the package is put on it, it senses the weight of the item, if the package is removed without disarming the Frisbee type object, it sounds a 100 decibel alarm which I think a jack hammer is about the equivalent, so it's a loud piercing noise,” says Lt. Wilson.

You could also consider putting smart locks on your door which let you control access to your home from your phone. So, when a package is delivered, you can remotely unlock the front door for the delivery person to place it inside and then lock it back up when they leave. "The downside to me of that is you don't know who the delivery person is, hopefully they're honest and trustworthy,” says Lt. Wilson. If not, at least you’d know they can be tracked down through the delivery company.

Banks thinks that local police should be more proactive and consider a program similar to one being run in Northern California that uses bait packages to catch would-be porch poachers. The boxes appear like any other delivery but have a GPS tracker inside and are left on porches in neighborhoods that have seen a high number of thefts. Authorities in the communities that use them say they’ve been successful in reducing the number of thefts.