With the holiday season, fast approaching members of local law enforcement are cautioning Ohioans about increased holiday theft and how to keep themselves and their property safe while shopping in stores or online.

Ohio law enforcement agencies state that they see an uptick in theft reports towards the end of the year.

“There are more porch pirates, people who steal newly delivered packages left outside others’ homes, as well as thefts from vehicles and general thefts as the holidays approach,” Euclid Police Department’s community policing specialist and crime analyst Kate McLaughlin said.

According to a joint report from the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center, the holiday sales forecast predicts a 3.4% increase compared to 2021.

Statistics show Ohioans spent $30.3 billion on holiday shopping in 2021, which was a 6.4% increase from 2020.

Security Tags says that increased holiday foot traffic, busy employees, chaotic stores, and colder weather, meaning bulkier clothing, makes the holiday season the optimal time for theft. In addition to the increased opportunity, they say, one of the major drivers of the holiday shoplifting increase is a personal need.

According to a 2020 C+R Research study, 43 percent of Americans have been a victim of package theft. 61 percent say they know someone who has had a parcel taken. 43 percent say they know a neighbor who was victimized and the average cost of a stolen package is $136.

The Mentor Police Department stated that porch piracy, like auto theft, is a crime of opportunity.

“Like auto theft, porch piracy is a crime of opportunity. Thieves will often follow a delivery truck or simply cruise around an area looking for an attractive target. And, like retail theft, thieves are looking for high-value items that they can flip quickly,” the department stated.

The Mentor Police Department also stresses that taking precautionary measures is an important defense against package theft.

“The longer a package sits on your front step, the more attention it will attract. If you can’t be home, have someone you trust retrieve your package for you. If possible, request that your delivery be placed near a side or rear door that is out of sight or arrange to have your delivery sent to your workplace if permitted,” the department stated.

Telephone scams are another concern around the holidays according to Attorney General Dave Yoast.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office warn that robocalls increase around the holiday as individuals posing as a legitimate business such as Amazon, Apple or PayPal in an attempt to scam people out of money. According to the office, these scammers call out of the blue and suggest, under the guise of wanting to help remedy the situation, that a large purchase has been charged to your credit card.

“Legitimate companies don’t do business this way, so just hang up. These impostors want to get you on the line and cause panic so you cough up personal information. My hope is that you will answer by ending the call,” Yost said.

The National Neighborhood Watch, a division of the National Sheriff’s Association, encourages leaving car doors locked, having packages delivered to a secure pick-up location, don’t announce holiday travel plans on social media, asking a friend to look after your residence when gone, don’t leave guns in unlocked vehicles, collecting mail and packages daily, keep indoor and outdoor lights on an automatic timer, do not store large displays of holiday gifts near windows or doors, never open the door if you are uncertain who is there, keep doors and windows locked, park in a well-lit area as close as possible to the front of the store, and if any issues arise do not hesitate to call local law enforcement.

“We want Ohioans to have a safe and happy holiday season, free of scams and thefts. It’s a busy time of year, and distractions can put us at greater risk for problems. Fortunately, taking a few proactive steps can go a long way to keeping you and your family safe,” Governor DeWine said.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Euclid Police Department” by Euclid Police Department.