Amazon delivery thieves beware: Cops plant GPS trackers in fake parcels

New Jersey police team up with Amazon to deliver fake parcels containing GPS-tracking devices.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Crafty police in New Jersey are using fake Amazon boxes, GPS tracking devices, and surveillance cameras to catch thieves making off with online shopping deliveries from residents' porches.

The Jersey City Police Department is teaming with up Amazon to plant bait boxes on doorsteps and door-bell cameras to catch thieves.

According to Associated Press, police decide where to place the bait boxes and cameras based on mapping data about theft locations provided by Amazon and the city's own crime statistics.

The fake boxes have been placed at the homes of members of the police department who'd volunteered to take part in the exercise.

The now-publicized mission should make would-be thieves think twice before snatching a package from doorsteps in the area.

According to Jersey police, in one instance a fake box was on the street for just three minutes before it was taken. The suspect was caught.

The police are using a mix of methods to catch thieves, with some locations under video surveillance, while others rely on GPS tracking.

The StarTribune reports that during a test run of Operation Drop Box on Tuesday, a standard commercial delivery vehicle lays the bait at a volunteer's doorstep.

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Three police vehicles followed the delivery vehicle, including one unmarked car with a line of sight to the package, while a second unmarked car waited further away with officers using an iPad to tack the package's location. Two officers parked in a marked vehicle then prepared to make an arrest if necessary.

Similar programs have been tried in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Hayward, California, according to Associated Press.

The New Jersey program had undergone legal review was approved by a municipal prosecutor. Sergeant Jason Urbanski told StarTribune that police aren't entrapping anyone because they're not making them commit a crime.

It's not known exactly how big the problem of porch thefts is, though a study by insuranceQuotes last year estimated 26 million Americans had a package stolen from a doorstep in the past year.

The US Postal Service expects it will deliver 200 million packages per week during the two weeks before Christmas. It expects to deliver a total of 900 million packages in the holiday season, while United Parcel Services expects to deliver 800 million packages during the period.

One of Amazon's responses to the problem is Amazon Key, for customers who feel comfortable allowing an Amazon delivery person inside their home under the watch of a cloud camera.


Police decide where to place the fake packages and cameras by using mapping data on thefts provided by Amazon and the city's own crime statistics.

Image: Tracy King/Getty Images

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