FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — With demand for online shopping at a high due to the coronavirus pandemic, residents should be aware of package thieves during the holiday season in Fairfax County and across the country.

Fairfax County Police spokesperson Sgt. Tara Gerhard told Patch that the police department’s package theft prevention tips are applicable throughout the year. Residents are urged to report suspicious activity by calling the Fairfax County Police Department’s non-emergency line at 703-691-2131. Safety tips are provided by police regularly throughout the year on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Nextdoor.

Here are Fairfax County Police tips for preventing package thefts:

  • Closely track your deliveries so you know when packages will arrive. Many online retailers offer notifications and tracking information to keep you in the loop.

  • If possible, enter special instructions for the delivery of your packages, i.e. in the side yard or somewhere less visible.

  • If you can’t be home when a package is set to be delivered, ask a trusted neighbor to hold onto it until you get home.

  • Consider using Smart Package lockers or consider shipping your items to the store for pickup.

  • If allowed, consider having packages delivered to your workplace.

  • At your request, some shipping carriers will hold your package at the carrier location for you to pick up at your convenience.

  • Consider installing a video doorbell or security system that provides a view of your porch so you know when items are delivered.

  • Keep track of packages that have been delivered and those that are still coming, so you can make sure you received your purchases.

For residents who don’t receive all of their packages, police recommend these steps:

  • Check with the shipper and retailer about reporting policies.

  • Make sure you have full information about your package.

  • If you have exterior home security video, know how to check it for activity.

  • Ask your neighbors if they have exterior home security video, just in case.

  • File a report with the Fairfax County Police Department by calling our non-emergency line at 703-691-2131. If you live outside of Fairfax County, file a report with your local police department.

More than 5.5 million Americans have been victimized by package thefts over the past year, according to Finder, a personal finance comparison website, in a study released in November.

About $5.4 billion worth of items were stolen in package thefts from November 2019 to November 2020, the Finder determined.

Because of the busy online shopping month of December, that number is likely to grow by the end of the year.

Fewer people were in the nation’s malls on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday was expected to become the busiest online shopping day of all time when all sales are totaled, according to The Associated Press.

Overall holiday season sales in 2020 are expected to rise 0.9 percent, with a 36 percent jump in online sales, a study by the research company eMarketer shows.

Porch pirates could see a prime opportunity to take advantage of the expected spike in packages left at front doors.

They usually get away with it, too. Only 11 percent of victims said the culprits were caught, according to a 2019 study by C+R Research.

Who Steals A Package?

Men are found to be more likely to be both package thieves and victims of the crime, according to the Finder study. With 5.29 percent of men admitting having stolen a package compared with 0.85 percent of women, men are more than 500 percent more likely to be package thieves than women, the study found.

Seventeen percent of men say a package of theirs was stolen during the past year, compared with 11 percent for women.

Still, 86 percent of the nearly 2,000 participants in the study said they have not experienced a package theft since this time last year.

This article originally appeared on the Kingstowne-Rose Hill Patch

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