Prepare to protect your holiday gift deliveries from porch pirates

- Package thefts are expected to be on the rise in the coming weeks due to holiday gift ordering and law enforcement is urging homeowners to prepare to protect their deliveries.

Amazon, meanwhile, believes it found a good option in the form of a service called Amazon Key, which offers Prime members the ability to have packages delivered inside their homes.

For $250, the service provides customers with a smart lock, cloud camera and tracks the drivers entering homes.

"You want to make sure that they're licensed, they're insured," said Cpl. Larry McKinnon, with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, adding folks need to ask themselves a question: "How much access are you going to give them? Really go into a lot of research before you let anybody just come into your house to deliver packages."

Amazon has reportedly said it thoroughly vets its drivers. While some customers like the peace of mind of knowing their packages are in their houses, the concept of the service makes others a little uneasy.

"Please, no. I don't let the maintenance people in my house when I'm not there," said Stephen Sims.

"I don't think I'd want to have someone coming in my house to drop off a package. Front door would be good for me," added Lauren Lee.

McKinnon said there are other options for folks who don't want to try the Amazon Key service; exterior surveillance cameras, including ones that are built into doorbells or installed onto a porch, can be a good deterrent for potential criminals.

"Thieves out there know that people are going to start having packages shipped to their house because of all the deals that are going on because of Black Friday so when that happens, the level of thefts is a dramatic increase," he said, adding thieves often target an entire neighborhood. "A lot of the times these people aren't just stealing one package off of one porch, they're chronically doing it as some of these delivery trucks are going down the line. So actually they'll follow some of the delivery trucks and wait until they deliver the package."

At Best Buy in Tampa, managers told FOX 13 the store's Smart Home department, which includes surveillance cameras that can be monitored with cell phones or tablets, is growing in size and popularity.

"These devices can be installed anywhere within your WiFi zone," said Jim Murphy, a Best Buy manager. "You never want to come home, package says it was delivered, you come home and it's not on there and having that type of device on there will certainly give you that capability."

Deputies said, if these options aren't suitable or are too expensive, homeowners who know they won't be at their houses for deliveries should consider having packages sent to their office or to a family member or friend who will be home.

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