The holiday season turns out a few unwanted guests

It’s that time of year again. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the happy, Christmas-y time of year, but what sometimes happens around the holidays: Some people are ordering packages, and some people are stealing them.

The Christmas shopping season is in full swing, and packages are a common sight on porches in every neighborhood. And that is an unwelcome invitation for “Porch Pirates” thieving your presents from right outside your door. Another criminal trend is “Backseat Bandits” — that is, people who will smash windows of cars in busy and unsecured parking lots to steal packages, purses, wallets and anything else expensive left out on the seat or in the hatch.

This year is no different from past years, as the City of Canandaigua Police Department is preparing its officers on package thefts and car break-ins.

“We haven’t seen [package thefts] yet, but we always anticipate it,” said Canandaigua Police Chief Stephen Hedworth. “It’s just one of the things that happen this time of year.”

It’s been in more recent years that police have seen the Backseat Bandits. According to Hedworth, there are groups of thieves that travel county to county, find busy parking lots — gyms, malls, etc. — where people are leaving their vehicles for long periods of time and looking for vehicles that have packages, purses, wallets or other valuables left on the seats.

Hedworth says it doesn’t matter to these thieves if the car is locked or not — if it’s locked, they’ll just break the windows.

“People think just because their vehicle is locked, they’re safe, but now we see a growing trend of windows being smashed out,” Hedworth said. “People get packages delivered to porches or mailboxes, they don't track their delivery and just wait for it to show up, while other people troll neighborhoods and porches and mailboxes.

“We have received information that one of these groups we've tracked are back in the area for vehicle thefts, so we definitely want to get the word out. Use common sense and take precautions,” Hedworth warned.

According to Messenger Post’s news partner, News 10NBC, last year nearly 26 million Americans reported having holiday packages stolen from their front porch or doorstep.

Gates Police Officer Erika Despard says the year-round crime is popular because of its convenience.

"When criminals see packages stacked up high and nobody home, or it appears no one is home, it definitely is an opportunity for them to commit a crime," said Despard.