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package thieves, porch pirates
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Amazon teams with victims and police to catch porch pirates

Sting operations to catch package thieves begin nationwide. (KIRO 7)

A national sting operation has Amazon teaming with police and victims of package theft using a new high-tech method of tracking stolen packages that leads police right to suspects.

Poll: Porch pirates steal from half of all Washington residents

The bait is a decoy package that looks like a typical delivery. Amazon supplies an item with a value high enough that the person who steals it can be charged with felony theft.

Amazon gets the homeowner’s permission to send or drop off the delivery, and places the package on a porch or in a mailbox.

“If someone moves it, police can track it,” said King County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

The program, dubbed by Amazon as “Operation safe porch,” has been used by police to catch thieves in the act from New Jersey to California.

After Covington police received reports of stolen mail from the Covington mailbox of Marizsa Rahbari and her husband, Aaron Willden, detectives asked them if they could send a decoy bait package containing a $600 cellphone and a tracking device.

When the delivery arrived, Willden grabbed it, along with the rest of his mail.

“By the time I walked from the mailbox, 30 feet to the house, they were already calling me saying like, ‘We see movement on this, was it you?'” said Willden.

After returning the package to the mailbox, police say thieves stole the package containing the phone, and the GPS led police to a white Cadillac, which contained bags and boxes of unopened mail.

Seattle’s ‘porch pirates’ more brazen than ever

“After talking to him he admitted that he did in fact steal the package,” said Abbott.  “Even worse for both of them was that they had another about 300 pieces of mail in the car that they had also stolen,” said Abbott.

A $1,300 virtual reality headset was stolen from a porch nearby and found in the bedroom of the accused thief, who was arrested by Covington police.

“The message is probably the benefit of stealing mail isn’t going to pay more than what you can do at a minimum wage job,” Wilden said.

Written by Gary Horcher

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