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This photo was taken by a doorbell camera last January on Janesville’s east side. It shows a man taking a delivered package. An officer used the photo to identify the man and arrest him.

JANESVILLE

The package’s contents weren’t something you could sell for profit. Just some enlarged family photographs.

But they meant something to the owner, who discovered last January that the package had been delivered to his porch, but he never received it.

But the owner had installed a doorbell camera, and he was able to give police video of the thief.

Those images led to an arrest four days later, when an officer noticed a man wearing the same distinctive clothing, including a furry Chicago White Sox hat.

Porch piracy is not a huge crime locally, but it happens, and this is the season it’s likely to happen here, said Sgt. Aaron Ellis of the Janesville Police Department.

“I think we’ll see a spike on Friday when the big shopping season starts,” Ellis said earlier this week. “Cyber Monday is generally a big one for us, too, because so many packages are being delivered.”

And that’s too bad because the crime is largely preventable, Ellis said.

Technology has caught up to porch pirates, with many companies offering “smart” door locks that the owner can operate remotely and allow delivery people to place the package inside.

The locks are web-based, so the owner is alerted in real time that a package has been delivered.

Video doorbells don’t necessarily unlock the door, but they allow the owner to view what’s happening on the porch, and some allow remote conversations with the delivery person.

Other solutions include sturdy lock boxes placed on the porch with combinations to allow the delivery person access.

Even a simple surveillance camera—with a sign noting the camera is watching—might deter thieves.

Ellis said the quality of home-security video has improved greatly, something that helps police solve crimes.

But Ellis noted there are alternatives to spending up to several hundred dollars on a fancy door-lock system:

You could have a trusted relative or neighbor pick up your packages if you can’t be home for the delivery.

Or you could have packages delivered to your place of work, if your boss allows that, or to the house of a friend who will be home.

Ellis noted that most delivery companies will send a smartphone alert when a package has been delivered, and the companies are getting better on their estimates of when deliveries are likely to happen, which makes it easier to arrange for someone to secure the package.

In the meantime, thieves are also on the lookout for cars with holiday purchases inside, Ellis said, so residents should always secure those in the trunk or at least have them covered inside the car.

Sometimes those thefts occur in the big-box store’s parking lot, Ellis said.

Police see a lot of holiday thefts of all kinds, and there might be more that are not reported, Ellis said.

Reports increase after articles like this one appear, he added.

As for last January’s case, it’s not clear whether the homeowner’s photographs were ever recovered. The man accused in the crime told police he discarded them as soon as he opened the package.

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