‘Tis the season: Thefts increase as holidays approach but Citrus Heights’ ‘bait package’ program fights back

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CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. (KTXL) -- Police are warning people to be extra vigilant of thieves as the holiday season gets underway.

“Usually, they leave the package right here so it has maybe a bit of cover. But if someone sees it from over there, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s a package,’” Citrus Heights resident David Sargent said.

Sargent has had quite a few packages delivered from shopping online. That means more porch pirates are on the prowl.

“It means a lot to a lot of people if they’re planning their Christmas and their gifts (are stolen), or actually even health equipment,” neighbor Dennis Cain said.

This type of theft is something Citrus Heights police are seeing all too often.

“As e-commerce continues to grow, so also will thieves find new and inventive ways to capitalize on that,” Citrus Heights Police Lt. James Baldwin said.

But the Citrus Heights Police Department is getting proactive. They’re putting out bait packages to catch criminals in the act.

“We have technology hidden in items that people are commonly stealing,” Baldwin said.

They change it up based on crime trends.

“It could be in vehicles, packages, high-dollar items,” he told FOX40.

Baldwin said hundreds of thieves have been caught in the act since the program began in 2016.

So far this year, police say they have arrested 50 people on felony charges who took the bait. Baldwin said they have each been repeat offenders.

Police believe the program has discouraged theft. They say bait package arrests have dropped 50% from 2018.

“Believe it or not, a great day for us would be none of our bait gets stolen,” Baldwin said. “We don’t want people to commit crimes.”

But as long as there are still thieves willing to take the bait, Citrus Heights police will be out trying to catch them.

“I think it’s a good idea. If there’s some way to dissuade them from doing that then I’m all for it,” Sargent said.

Citrus Heights police say the best way to protect your packages is to try to be home when they’re delivered. If that’s not possible, security cameras can help.

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