EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — As the holidays enter full swing, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) is warning residents about criminals looking to steal your merriment: porch pirates and car burglars.

Dictionary.com defines a porch pirate as “a thief who takes packages left outside doors by couriers.”

As more people turn to e-commerce, and deliveries ramp up, porch pirates are finding more opportunities to steal packages.

According to Finder, over 35 million Americans say they have been a victim of package theft within the last year (July 31, 2020-July 31, 2021) resulting in a loss of $5.4 billion.

This May 3, 2018, photo shows boxes on a conveyor belt during a tour of the Amazon fulfillment center in Aurora, Colo. The explosion in online shopping has led to porch pirates and stoop surfers swiping holiday packages from unsuspecting residents. The cops in one New Jersey city are trying to catch the thieves with some trickery of their own. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

With porch pirating on the rise, what can you do to protect your property?

EPSO offers the following tips:

  • Avoid advertising valuable gift purchases
  • Avoid leaving empty boxes exposed outside (think outside your door, your porch, or by your garbage can)
  • Establish delivery instructions (time and date) to avoid packages being delivered and/or stolen when you’re not home

Other ideas include:

  • Investing in a video surveillance system
  • Requesting non-descript packaging
  • Purchasing a lock box

Think outside your home, too

While porch pirates look to homes for potential crimes, other people might be looking in your car. EPSO also advises taking precautions when shopping in-person.

  • Cover or hide purchases and valuables when left unattended in your vehicle when shopping
  • Be aware of your surroundings when going to and from your vehicle

Other tips include:

  • Lock your doors and windows
  • Avoid leaving any gifts or valuables inside your car once you get home

The holiday season can be a time filled with fun, gifts, family and friends. Make sure you have the best holiday ever by protecting your property.