'Tis the season for gifts arriving by mail, FedEx and UPS. It's also high season for so-called "porch pirates" who pilfer those gifts before they can be picked up off the stoop.
But now one community is turning to technology to keep gifts from getting stolen and bring those thieves to justice.
Whether they're called porch pirates or Grinches, there is an additional title that also works: criminals. In Yonkers, the police department has a high-tech way of catching them: A GPS device is placed hidden inside a phony package, hoping they get stolen so they can follow the thieves on the device.
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"If the device moves any more than three feet, we get notified. Alarms go off in our dispatch, these officers will get notified as well. From that point it’s a live ping they can follow it on a map," said Sgt. Frank DiDomizio.
DiDomizio demonstrated how it works, taking one of the decoy packages with the GPS from a stoop and driving off. That allowed other officers to follow his location on their phones.
Yonkers Police deliberately chose boxes from companies like Dell, Apple and Amazon in order to trick a potential thief into thinking they’re getting something good. But in the end, they’re actually getting followed.
"We have these new devices that can update every three seconds within five feet, so they would know if it’s on me or on you," DiDomizio said.
The signal gets sent to officers on patrol 24 hours a day, and then the pursuit begins.
The department has been using the program for a few years now, and while they don’t have statistics on GPS-related captures, they know package theft is down from year to year. They believe that’s partly because the GPS program serves as a deterrent.
This year, the devices have been distributed all over the city.
“We have a lot. We’re not going to say exactly how many we have, but we have a lot. We’re constantly changing the boxes they’re in we’re constantly changing the addresses they’re at so you never really know which one is going to be ours that you take," DiDomizio said.
It’s a warning for the Grinches of the world: The police are watching.