Skip to content

Baiting bad behavior: New Westminster police fight against mail thefts

Mail thefts on the decline: Bait packages track porch pirates in New Westminster
NWPD Sgt. Justine Thom hopes bait packages deter would-be thieves from stealing mail.

Porch pirates beware: If you’re tempted steal mail, you may get a visit from the police.

The New Westminster Police Department reports there’s been a decrease in the number of mail thefts reported in the city in the past year. The police department launched a bait package program in December 2022.

“Since that time we have seen a reduction of 30 per cent in all mail thefts in the city,” said Hailey Finnigan, the NWPD’s communications officer. “So, we are quite thrilled with that.”

Led by the department’s Street Crimes Unit, officers deploy numerous packages on doorsteps and in mailboxes across the city. They’re placed at a prearranged residences or mailboxes with the homeowners’ consent.

“For all intents and purposes it looks like and it weighs the same as any package you would find on a door stop or in a mail room. It could be a bubble-wrapped envelope, it could be a box, it could be a tube,” Finnigan said. “And inside of it is technology that allows the Street Crimes Unit to see when the package has been activated. It allows the Street Crimes Unit to see where it goes, and if you are a porch pirate and you have made the poor decision to steal that bait package, you will be arrested by the Street Crimes Unit.”

The police department could not say how many arrests have made because of the program, but it’s pleased that the number of mail thefts reported in New West has decreased in the past year.

“Every month we take a look at the number of reports of mail thefts that have been made to the New Westminster police department – and we acknowledge that mail theft does go under-reported,” Finnigan said. “So, in comparing the number of incidents of mail theft from the 2022 calendar year to where we’re at now in 2023, that is where we have seen the 30 per cent reduction.”

Sgt. Justine Thom said posters about the bait packages have been placed in many apartment buildings and multifamily complexes in the city to raise awareness about the program and to deter thieves. Because crime is always evolving, she said it’s important to try new things.

“We're feeling positive about the 30 per cent decrease,” she said, “and we'll see how this program continues.”

Neighbours who help out by moving a package to a safer location after it’s been delivered don’t have to fear getting in trouble if they move bait packages, said the NWPD.

“There is technology in them that will basically highlight to investigators when a package is on the move,” Thom said. “We don't care about instances where it's moved a short distance and the package is accounted for. … What we care about are the ones that are actually going distances that we can't account for the package. And obviously, the technology allows us to be able to locate it.”

Thom said some residents – including those who have been victims of mail theft – have asked the police department to host a bait package.

“Obviously, it's just so frustrating,” she said. “When you've had something happen, oftentimes you're wanting to be able to help, to prevent that from happening to somebody else.”

Community members who think their area would benefit from a bait package can email Finnigan at [email protected], and she will forward the request to the Street Crime Unit which will assess whether it’s a suitable property for the program.

It just ruins holiday joy

The bait package program operates in New West year-round, including during the Christmas season – when many folks do online shopping and have items delivered to their homes and risk having packages stolen.

“It's just disappointing,” Thom said. “This is the season where you buy things out of love; you're buying things for your loved ones and your friends, your family, and it just ruins holiday joy.”

Here are some tips from the New Westminster Police Department on preventing mail theft:

  • Make sure you have proper lighting on your porch.
  • Ensure that you don't have obstructions to your front door, so there’s good visibility to your front door.
  • Pay attention to tracking of online purchases, so you know when to expect a package to arrive – and can make arrangements for someone to put it somewhere safe if you’re not home.
  • Consider having the packaged delivered to work if that’s where you’ll be when the package is scheduled to arrive.
  • Install a door camera, which can be a deterrent to potential thieves – particularly those “opportunistic people” who may pass by and see a package. It may also allow you to see if a package has been delivered so you can ask someone to grab it for you to keep it safe.
  • Shop from local retailers to avoid having packages delivered to your door, where they could potentially be stolen.

“There are so many fantastic local New West businesses,” Thom said. “So while, of course, shopping online is an option, also consider supporting local.”