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Opportunistic porch thieves are thriving during holiday season

Many thefts are caught on surveillance camera
Posted at 4:53 PM, Dec 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-27 18:36:54-05

The season of giving is also the season of thieving! Packages have been stolen right out front of our doorsteps again and again this holiday season.

A new report reveals those packages at our doorstep are just too enticing to pass up for the casual criminals in our community.

"The same principles tend to apply throughout criminal behavior, whether it's homicide, burglary, carjacking or porch theft," says USF Assistant Professor of Criminology Dr. Bryanna Fox.

Dr. Fox studies criminals and her new report categorizes burglars using some of the same tools already used to better organized homicides. Terms like "organized" versus "disorganized" and "interpersonal" versus "opportunistic" is helping Tampa Bay Area police departments better understand common criminals, even helping to reduce crime in many communities.

An "organized" criminal for instance is usually committing pre-meditated crimes, that are planned and sometimes sophisticated.

But during the holiday season, when delivery packages are at many doorsteps, it's "disorganized" and "opportunistic" criminals who are doing much of the stealing in our communities.

They "don't do it the rest of the year and are just doing it this one time of year. A one-off," explains Dr. Fox. "Disorganized in nature, where it's more spontaneous, impulsive, haphazard."

One such burglar was arrested last night, hours after ABC Action News aired home surveillance video of a man who bicycled past a Pinellas Park home, and then returned seconds later to steal a girl's Christmas gift.

These "disorganized" burglars are usually younger in age, an "amateur" and taking advantage of something like an unlocked door, or an open window or garage.

"Interpersonal" burglars are describing as a criminal who knows their victim, and is stealing something personal.

Victims of burglaries, not just "larceny," cost victims an average of $2,500 and cost police departments thousands more dollars to investigate. Preventing opportunities for criminals saves everyone money. That means keeping doors and windows locked when you're not home, and it means putting up well-marked home surveillance cameras to dissuade burglars from entering your home in the first place.