Residents can help cut down on holiday thefts

Published 4:46 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By Myra Bean

As we get closer to Christmas, the number of packages people have delivered to their homes increases every day. Those people are usually at work when the packages arrive at their residences, and the chances that thieves will steal from their doorsteps gets bigger every year.

Panola County law enforcement officers are very aware that burglars are on the prowl and recently gave advice to people who want to avoid becoming crime victims during the holiday season.

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Kerry Pittman, assistant to the chief at the Batesville Police Department said they have not received any complaints this year about stolen packages, but does suggest people get a lock box with a key in it to give to delivery personnel.

They can open the box with a code, get the key, leave the packages in the house and then return the key to the box, he said.

John Still, investigator with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, said this is already a problem in the county’s rural areas. People watch for delivery trucks to drop packages at empty houses and then remove the packages, he said.

He suggested residents get some of the updated security technology to videotape their home at all times, and hopefully catch perpetrators on film should the choose to target the residence.

Some security systems use voice mechanisms to talk to unwelcome guests at the door.

Still said if that is not an option, people should have their packages delivered to places which have people present most of the time,  either a neighbor or to a workplace.

“We do have a problem with that in the county,” Still said. “I think (robbers) were in general watching if they saw a truck. This time of year is worse than others.”

He also said to be aware that identify thefts increase during the holidays also.

One thing that can help residents is not to throw television boxes, game system boxes or other big item boxes in the trash and leave them on the roadside.

“You advertise somebody you just got a brand new 70-inch T.V.  or your kid got an Xbox. They see the boxes and it’s free reign. It is out of our protection. Under the fourth amendment there is no protection for your garbage. Anybody can go through your garbage on the road,” he said.

“Collapse them or bag them so they have to go through a bag, or burn them,” Still said.

As Panola County residents opt for the convenience of online Christmas shopping, law enforcement offered several tips aimed at deterring thieves from stealing holiday deliveries.

In addition to the earlier tips, the following tips for online shopping were as follows:

•Ask for a tracking number. Track your packages and try to be home at the time of delivery. When placing an order, try to schedule shipment for a day you expect to be home, if possible.

•Require a signature on delivery. This will ensure the package won’t be left at the door without someone being there to sign and bring it safely inside.

•Provide delivery instructions. Leave a note specifying what less conspicuous spot you would like the package left.

•Mail Holding Service. Mail Holding Service securely holds letters and packages at the local post office until you’re back in town. Many delivery companies such as USPS and FedEx offer a free service to uphold your package at their terminals or delivery centers for a period of time.

•Insure your upcoming packages. Insuring packages will guarantee reimbursement if a delivery was stolen or lost.

•Install a smart security camera at your front door. Have a smart video surveillance camera pointing at the front door, hallway or driveway. A security camera will serve as a deterrent for criminals and provide evidence to aid in the arrest and prosecution of thieves.