Wilshire Area/Mid-City: Over the first three weeks of December, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, Wilshire Area, have conducted a bait operation focused on capturing those involved in package theft, commonly referred to as “porch piracy.” The coordinated effort involved detectives, undercover personnel and uniformed patrol officers, and was dubbed “Operation Pinch-A-Grinch.”
Wilshire officers approached the holiday season with the belief the current health crisis had created a “perfect storm” of circumstances which was likely to result in increases in package theft. Stay at home orders, limited access to brick and mortar stores, and limited ability to travel safely to family for the holidays, would all add to an increase in the shipping and delivery of items. In addition, those criminal actors who usually engaged in theft related criminal activity have for months found their normal targets off limits as stores were closed or allowed only limited capacity, and homes remained occupied during daytime hours as people were off work or telecommuting. All of this led Wilshire personnel to begin planning the operation months before the holiday shipping season.
Operation Pinch-A-Grinch involved detective and patrol personnel from throughout Wilshire Area, and over three dozen residents who offered the use of their front porches, steps and doorways, as well as lobby mailbox areas of apartment and condominium complexes. High dollar merchandise and packing materials were provided by multiple corporations who also collaborated in the crime fighting effort. Undercover officers, posing as delivery personnel and driving a very convincing delivery van, would drop off packages containing a variety of high dollar items, and containing additional GPS tracking devices. Plainclothes personnel would be in position to conduct surveillance of the bait locations, located throughout the various communities throughout the Mid-City Wilshire Area.
The operations have been run repeatedly, on sporadic days and hours, over the month of December. During that period, Wilshire personnel have made 12 arrests for theft-related crimes, including grand and petty theft, burglary and receiving stolen property. Despite the massive increases in shipping and deliveries, current Wilshire Area crime rates for the month of December reflect a drop of over 30% in reported incidents of package theft when compared to 2019.
As a further effort to prevent package theft, residents are being provided with a variety of leaflets to display at their front doors and near their mailboxes, showing their support for operation Pinch-A-Grinch and warning potential thieves that any packages at their residence could be bait left by the police. See attached for several examples of the leaflets available to the community.
Wilshire Area personnel will continue to run this operation in the months to come and intend to send a clear message to those who would commit these opportunistic crimes: Wilshire Area is the wrong place to come to commit porch piracy or package theft, because that package you are thinking about stealing could very easily be bait, and the delivery van you are following could be full of police officers.