Police are using fake Amazon packages to catch porch pirates

Decoy packages could catch suspected thieves

As holiday deliveries — and package thefts — hit a peak, some cities are turning to decoys to try to catch suspected thieves.

Police in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, are trapping would-be burglars with fake Amazon boxes equipped with surveillance cameras and GPS units. The decoys have been placed outside houses in areas where multiple thefts have occurred.

Police Chief Michael Kelly announced the move on Twitter this week, saying the department wanted to deter thefts by announcing the sting project.

It took barely any time for the first theft to occur, The Associated Press reported.

"We had a box out on the street for three minutes before it was taken," Capt. James Crecco, who is overseeing the initiative, told the AP. "We thought it was a mistake at first."

Using a GPS locator in the box, police apprehended a suspect Tuesday, Crecco said.

All the boxes, which the city got from Amazon free of charge, contain GPS devices and can be tracked, Kelly said. Police also will be able to use the surveillance photos to identify suspects.

Kelly said the plan has been reviewed and approved by a municipal prosecutor, adding that the city hopes to expand the program with help from Amazon.

Across the country, police in Elk Grove, California, are trying a similar tactic. The local police department said it would sent out bait packages to different locations at different times of day to try to catch thieves, ABC10 reported.

Exact figures on porch thefts are hard to come by. A company commissioned by comparison-shopping service insuranceQuotes.com surveyed 1,000 people and extrapolated that 26 million Americans have had a holiday package stolen from their home. That would be nearly one in 12 Americans.