‘Tis the season to be jolly, vacation and give gifts, but when traveling for the holidays, what about the arrival of those packages you’ve been waiting for?
With the holidays, online shopping, mailed gifts, and deliveries expected, you may not get your package if there’s a “porch pirate” on the loose. Porch pirating occurs when someone follows around delivery trucks throughout the town and watches for their targets, waiting to steal packages when no one is home, according to Pennsville Police Chief Allen J. Cummings. Just last Wednesday, Maple Shade Police Department, in Burlington County, released video surveillance of an unidentified woman who stole a package from the front of a residence.
The person who lived there, according to authorities, was not home at the time of the theft.
So what can you do to protect your holiday arrivals when you’re busy at work or traveling? Here are some pointers you should know from law enforcement officers in South Jersey:
Manage your delivery time
Pirates will lurk and wait to strike during normal work hours, which is the most common time period for theft, according to Cummings. This can be avoided by setting specific delivery times when shopping online for when you will be home to retrieve packages.
If shopping and mailing to another person, there are options for tracking the delivery as well. Harrison Township Police Department in Gloucester County also encourages buyers to use delivery alerts notifying when a package has arrived.
Pick-up your mail instead of waiting for delivery
With online purchases, an option is to go to the nearby UPS or FedEx for a “dock pick-up.”
When shopping, there is often an option online in “order comments.”
“You can put it in your comments that you’ll pick it up,” VanNamee said, adding that it’s a safe alternative to assure packages are retrieved. Or, it’s also possible to arrange to have a purchase from a larger retailer delivered to a nearby store for pick up.
When possible, request the delivery company to hold your package at their closest pick-up facility until you can pick it up, Chief Cummings added. Ask the shipper to require a confirmation signature to prevent deliveries from being left when no one is home to sign for them.
Set up alternate drop-off sites
There are other options for delivery locations, including place of work, a family member’s house, or trustworthy friend. Police advise residents to have deliveries sent to a location they can be received in person, with permission of an employer or neighbor.
Have a trusted neighbor arrange to receive a delivery so that it is not left unattended. Make arrangements for someone to be there so the packages are not left sitting on the doorstep all day.
Give the illusion you are home
“Make sure you have your mail and newspapers stopped or forwarded,” Carneys Point Det. Sgt. Dale VanNamee said, adding that it’s important to prevent mail from piling up. When mail accumulates, it looks like no one is home and makes the house more vulnerable to pirating.
Also, provide delivery instructions so packages can be left out of sight from the yard or road when no one is home. Have good security cameras installed on the property, as well as timed lights, advises New Jersey State Police. Or, have a secure box that the delivery company has access too, near the back door, garage, or inside a fenced area, state police said.
Another option is a temporary P.O. box. Police remind residents to contact the local police department if a package theft is observed. Do not approach the suspicious person, but take down a description, tag number of vehicle and direction of travel and notify authorities.
Brittany Wehner may be reached at
- Planned Parenthood CEO says “hateful rhetoric” fuels violent incidents
- He could face the death penalty if he’s charged with first-degree murder and convicted
Prosecutors intend to charge Robert Lewis Dear, 57, with first-degree murder, which could carry a minimum penalty of life in prison or a maximum penalty of death if he’s convicted. He will also face other charges. Dear is accused of killing a police officer and two civilians in a shooting rampage on November 27. The closely watched case has already united even staunch opponents in the abortion debate. Dear mentioned “baby parts” after the shooting and expressed anti-abortion and anti-government views, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said.
Investigators have not publicly disclosed a motive, but the mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers, said it can be inferred by the location of the attack. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called it a “crime against women receiving health care services.” Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was clear that she believes the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
Nine people were wounded in the rampage, which brought common ground between Planned Parenthood’s leadership and conservative presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: Both called it an act of terrorism.
“I think there’s a lot of belief that this qualifies as a form of domestic terrorism,” Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s chief experience officer, said. Huckabee echoed that sentiment.
“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable — especially to us in the pro-life movement, because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way on something like this,” Huckabee said.
Official: Suspect had duffel bag with handguns, rifles
Dear surrendered after a nearly six-hour standoff. At this point, investigators believe Dear acted alone, and they’re working to interview witnesses and anyone he may have spoken with before the attack, the official said. So far, they haven’t pinpointed why the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood location was targeted or a clear motive, the official said. They’re also reviewing evidence found in and around the facility, the official said, including handguns and rifles Dear allegedly brought to the scene in a duffel bag and propane tanks investigators believe he planned to use as part of his attack.
The Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs had protective windows, along with a safe room and closed circuit television surveillance video, common security practices adopted by the organization at facilities in recent years, another law enforcement official said. Before the attack, a private security guard posted at the facility had left when his shift ended. Another security guard was scheduled to come in later that day, a Planned Parenthood official said.
“The staff at this health center were trained in security measures, and they acted swiftly and in accordance with their training,” Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement. “They worked closely with law enforcement to prevent this tragedy from being far worse than it was.”
A hermit’s shanty
Dear apparently lived in solitude in the Carolinas, then more recently in Colorado. He’s believed to have moved from North Carolina to Colorado about a year ago, living in an RV on a vacant piece of land. Over a decade ago, he had some run-ins with the law while living in South Carolina but was never convicted.
In 1997, Dear’s wife accused him of domestic assault, although no charges were pressed, according to records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina. In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping Tom; those counts were dismissed. In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty, but he was found not guilty at a bench trial.
He later made his home in a hermit shanty in the mountains of North Carolina, CNN affiliate WLOS reported. It published a photo of a small, basic cabin in the woods of Buncombe County. The Sheriff’s Office there knew Dear from a single civil citation issued in 2014 for allowing his dogs to run wild.
Planned Parenthood videos
Planned Parenthood has recently faced intense political and social opposition. Eight undercover videos released over the summer by anti-abortion activists have stirred caustic criticism against the reproductive health services provider. The controversy has reached the halls of Congress, where conservative politicians have demanded the group’s defunding.
At least three of the organization’s buildings have been vandalized since September, not long after the last video appeared.
“It is really disturbing to see the kind of hateful rhetoric about Planned Parenthood, about the women who come to us, about the doctors who provide health care,” she said. “It’s very hard to see these kinds of violent incidents that I think sometimes this rhetoric fuels.”
- ^ a police officer and two civilian (www.cnn.com)
- ^ Loretta Lynch (www.cnn.com)
- ^ abortion (www.cnn.com)
- ^ Mike Huckabee (www.cnn.com)
- ^ Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s chief experience officer, (www.cnn.com)
- ^ Huckabee said (www.cnn.com)
- ^ Family a priority for those killed in Planned Parenthood shooting (www.cnn.com)
- ^ More about Planned Parenthood (www.cnn.com)
- ^ A brief history of anti-abortion violence (www.cnn.com)
- ^ CNN affiliate WLOS reported. (www.wlos.com)
- ^ Fear, horror, disbelief among witnesses (www.cnn.com)
- ^ undercover videos released over the summer by anti-abortion activists (www.cnn.com)
- ^ Planned Parenthood (www.cnn.com)
- ^ “AC360” (www.cnn.com)
Three Medi-Cal health providers risked having data stolen on thousands of patients because of security problems ranging from outdated anti-virus software to retaining the computer passwords of fired workers, according to a federal study released Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services reviewed information system controls for three managed-care organizations from 2012 to 2015 and found 74 potentially high-risk vulnerabilities, according to a report from the inspector general’s office. The study didn’t identify the three organizations for security reasons and didn’t investigate whether the three organizations had suffered any data breaches.
“An important way to guard against medical identity theft that can result from an exposed data vulnerability is to closely monitor your health plan’s explanation of benefits forms and personal credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies,” said Donald White, spokesman for the inspector general’s office of the federal department.
California has 87 managed care organizations that serve 9.5 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The federal findings “raise concerns about the integrity of the systems used to process Medicaid managed-care claims,” but they don’t necessarily mean all the organizations face the same vulnerabilities, the report said, because the organizations had “minor differences” in their information systems. The report didn’t provide many explicit details, but it said it found problems with access, information storage and database security. For instance, the report said, one organization failed to properly encrypt health data on portable devices such as flash drives, and one organization didn’t track and verify that it had “sanitized” or removed data from and disposed of flash drives and other devices.
One managed-care organization “did not disable user accounts for terminated employees in a timely manner,” increasing the risk of an unauthorized person accessing the data, the report said. Also, an organization failed to properly restrict access to inappropriate websites from its wireless network, according to the report. The California Department of Health Care Services, which oversees managed-care organizations, “is committed to protecting the confidentiality of our members and the department appreciates OIG’s work to identify these data vulnerabilities,” spokesman Adam Weintraub said in a statement Tuesday.
“We have begun working with all three plans to correct the issues. At least one of the plans has already completed corrective work,” Weintraub said. “DHCS expects to receive regular updates on the plans’ progress toward fixing these vulnerabilities.”