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Police plant GPS-enabled decoy parcels in attempt to capture package thieves

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Posted at 9:42 PM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 10:05:01-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Holiday gifts left on porches are being poached by burglars, and now the Unified Police Department is upping its patrols and taking extra steps to protect property as more package thieves are on the prowl.

UPD is putting decoy packages all across the valley, and they are also tracking those packages in the hopes it will help them catch culprits red-handed.

“I had a TV delivered here on Black Friday," said Roma Peddle of Millcreek. "It was supposed to be here on the second, and it never showed up."

Placed right outside her front door, thieves snatched Roma Peddle's package.

“It's sad that you can't just trust the neighborhood to leave it on the front porch,” Peddle said.

Police say there are hundreds of cases just like this.

“The holiday times, there's so much theft, mail fraud theft,” said Sgt. Matt Visher.

Thousands of online orders are delivered each day. Now, Unified Police are working to catch the bad guys through a new sting operation.

“The idea is to deter this from happening and make people aware that we're out looking, and we will continue looking for people until this problem stops,” said Lt. Lex Bell of the Unified Police Department.

To catch thieves, UPD, USPS and Homeland Security placed packages filled with fake electronics and GPS devices at homes across the valley

“The idea is, if we can get some of the guys doing this, it will lead us to a larger ring of people--we hope lead us to a lot more stolen packages,” Bell said.

Once a package moves, they'll see it. Police say the holidays create a goldmine for thieves.

“You can drive through any neighborhood and see packages left on a doorstep, any day,” Visher said.

In most cases, thieves tail a delivery driver and pounce on the merchandise as soon as the driver is out of sight.

“It's definitely bold; it shows how confident they are, it's something that takes seconds, not minutes, to do,” Visher said.

Police say you can take steps to avoid being a target.

“If you could make an effort to have the area a little bit hidden on your front porch. or talk to a neighbor, see if you can find someone who can grab that package from you,” Bell said.

Victims hope to see this come to an end.

“It's so sad that would happen at all, so hopefully they catch them,” Peddle said.

Police did not have any arrests Wednesday, but they believe these decoy packages and police presence will help prevent future burglaries.