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‘Porch pirate’ burglars prey on homes getting deliveries amid coronavirus crisis

A postal worker wearing a mask and gloves delivers mail in Torrance on March 14.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Thieves are exploiting new workplace rules that have resulted in delivery drivers to avoid opening gates, knobs and latches in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, police say.

While crime is down dramatically across Los Angeles, police say some “porch pirates” are taking advantage of the increasing prevalence of home deliveries as residents find new ways to conduct business during the pandemic.

LAPD Assistant Chief Robert Arcos said that, while overall thefts are down because more residents are adhering to the state’s stay-at-home orders, package thefts are still occurring.

A surge of online orders due to the coronavirus pandemic is slowing quick deliveries from Amazon, Walmart and other retailers.
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While investigating a theft in the Melrose district last week, LAPD detectives learned from delivery drivers that they have been instructed not to touch doorknobs, gate latches or other surfaces that may be touched often by others. As a result, detectives say, an increasing number of packages, rather than being placed inside gates or doors, are being left near the sidewalk or in other exposed and visible locations, which makes it much easier for them to be stolen.

Police therefore are encouraging delivery drivers, many of whom are wearing masks and gloves themselves, to be aware of their surroundings. Authorities suggest that if drivers think they are being followed, they should divert their route and notify police.

The LAPD captured on video last week an SUV that appeared to be following a delivery truck in the Melrose area. In the video, the male driver of the SUV is seen stepping out of his vehicle, walking across the street and snatching a parcel off a pathway moments after it was left there by the delivery driver.

Police described the man as 30-40 years old, about 5 feet 10 and weighing 200-220 pounds. He was driving a late-'90 model Mercury Mountaineer.

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Amazon is providing what some would say is an essential service to shoppers who would rather not brave their local supermarket or big-box store. But keeping operations going risks the health of the lowest-paid members of Amazon’s workforce.

Anyone with information about the driver or vehicle should call Det. Edward Griffin at (213) 922-8251. During nonbusiness hours, or on weekends, theft calls should be made to (877) 527-3247. Those wishing to remain anonymous can submit a report to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477 or lacrimestoppers.org.

Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu.


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