NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The stay-at-home orders enacted in response to COVID-19 have caused an uptick in package delivers across the country, and police are warning New Brunswick residents that porch pirates in the city have taken notice.
Capt. J.T. Miller said that although crime has dropped sharply in the city since the pandemic hit with full force in March, the police department has seen a rise in theft of packages delivered by the likes of Amazon, eBay and Newegg.
“That’s been on the rise since Amazon has really gotten moving,” Miller said. “The last couple of years they've been on the rise and it's just going to continue to rise with everything that is getting delivered package-wise and things get just dumped off on porches.”
Miller sees a cause-and-effect connection between the rise in package thefts and the fact that Rutgers has all but closed down its on-campus activities.
He said unlocked dorm rooms and apartments occupied by Rutgers students have long been relatively easy pickings for burglars. They try the doorknob, and if it’s unlocked, they’ll slip in, grab whatever they can and scram. Break-ins are much less common, Miller said.
Because the university has shut the vast majority of its doors, would-be thieves have seemingly turned their sights toward city porches, stoops, mailboxes and wherever else the delivery guy leaves that blender or iPhone you just ordered from Walmart.com.
One in five Americans have reported being a victim of porch piracy during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from ValuePenguin.com by LendingTree.
Although 33% of consumers surveyed said they have taken no action to prevent package thefts within the past year, Miller suggests people who receive packages regularly invest in a doorbell camera.
“They really help us a lot,” Miller said. “We’ve caught a lot of the packages being stolen because they get caught on video going up on the porch and we can identify the people. A lot of them have unfortunately been arrested before for the same thing. No one's going into the courthouse right now. So any one of these getting arrested just get a summons. So, everyone stays out there and keeps doing what they’re doing.”
Miller also suggests taking advantage of the tracking technology that lets you know precisely when that package from, say, UPS is coming. If you can’t be there to receive it, try to arrange to have someone you know to receive it for you.
Another safe alternative is to set up a locker near your home and coordinate with your local delivery driver.
Miller also said that domestic disputes have been on the rise in the city since the pandemic started.
Although the vast majority of them have not turned violent and amounted to little more than arguments, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a warning for law enforcement officials to remain vigilant because “the same isolation helping us flatten the curve and slow the spread of this pandemic also creates an ideal situation for an abuser to continue their abuse of an intimate partner or child.”