By Julie Watts

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Front porches have become easy targets for crooks, especially as we get closer to Christmas. But even as surveillance cameras are catching porch pirates in the act on a daily basis, mail theft arrests are pretty rare.

Nearly 26 million Americans reported holiday packages stolen from their porch last year, according to InsuranceQuotes.com. However, the United States Postal Inspection Service reported only about 2,000 mail theft convictions in 2017.

The good news is there are an increasing number of ways to protect your packages.

“If you’re going to be out of town, put the package on hold or have your mail on hold,” said postal inspector Jeff Fitch. He also pointed to a number of automated options to help protect your holiday packages.

Fitch recommends signing up for USPS Informed Delivery. It allows you to track your packages and get notified when they arrive. UPS has a similar service called “My Choice” and Fedex calls their service “Delivery Manager.”

All three mail services also allow you to re-route packages to secure sites for pickup.

“Follow the package, so you’re either home when it’s being delivered or have it held until you’re available for delivery,“ Fitch recommended.

If you’re ordering from Amazon, you can choose to have packages delivered to secure Amazon lockers located inside various grocery store and retailers around the Bay Area.

In the Bay Area, Amazon also offers in-trunk car delivery for eligible vehicles and the Amazon Key Smart Lock Kit that enables delivery inside your home.

But Fitch says don’t bother offering a key to your mail carrier. “We are very careful about securing your property and that would give us access to an area that is not a delivery point.”

He noted security and liability concerns, and says the postal carriers are only allowed to deliver packages to specific approved delivery points – generally the front porch. So, you can’t just leave a note asking them to deliver to the backyard, for instance.

However, Fitch says you can contact your carrier supervisor to ask if they’ll approve an alternate delivery point. You can also have your packages shipped to your office if it’s allowed, or to a neighbor’s house who is home during the day.

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