RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Consumers at home aren’t the only ones taking advantage of online shopping deals ahead of the holiday season. Package theft by porch pirates is an issue that has plagued the City of Richmond in the past, and now, officials say, they’re tracking a spike.

“Package thefts in the City of Richmond is not something new; we had a number of them last year. What we’re seeing this year is an uptick,” Richmond Police Department Lt. David Naoroz said. “I think some of that has to do with the fact that so many people are home because of the COVID lockdown.”

With more Richmond residents relying on online shopping to avoid in-person interaction and minimize the spread of the virus, Lt. Naoroz says the department is seeing an increase in package thefts earlier than in years past. Other than in July, officials say the number of reported package thefts has been above average since March. The spike coincides with Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Orders closing schools and non-essential businesses statewide and banning public gatherings over a certain size.

“A number of retail organizations have boosted and advertised some of the package delivery starting this month, and it goes into the holiday seasons,” Lt. Naoroz said. “That’s typically where we see our uptick. We have had that uptick already happen, though.”

There have been six reported package thefts this month in the City of Richmond as of October 14.

Richmond Police are concerned that as the holiday season approaches, an already above-average number of reported package thefts will continue to rise at a rate higher than in previous years.

“I think it is often an opportunity where somebody may be walking by and see it sitting there and maybe check their surroundings to see if somebody’s watching,” Lt. Naoroz said. “It’s everywhere.”

From residential areas around Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), through The Fan District and to the West End, authorities say porch pirates can target anyone. But there are ways for residents to protect themselves from this theft.

“What we’re hoping is that neighbors talk to their neighbors and community groups and get out the word to people,” Lt. Naoroz said. “If you can have your packages delivered to a lock box — some of the delivery services offer lock box services.”

Doorbell cameras are also an option.

“That will certainly notify you if somebody’s up on the porch, but then it doesn’t necessarily secure your package,” Lt. Naoroz said. “If any of that stuff is kind of witnessed or people see any of those suspicious activities, we really ask them to give us a call.”

Richmond Police can be reached at 804-646-6842.