MENTOR, Ohio – As holiday shopping begins, police are working to prevent theft from stores and front doors.

Mentor police plan to once again utilize undercover officers and a GPS tracking device to catch suspects.

Officer Scott Bell, who is part of the department’s Crime Prevention Unit, said police will plant “bait boxes” that contain GPS tracking devices on people’s porches.

“We will put a GPS tracker in a box and with permission of a homeowner put the box on his porch with other packages,” he said. “If somebody were to take that box, our detectives would be notified that the box is moving. They would be able to track it, find it right where the bad guy is and make the arrest.”

Bell said officers will wear plainclothes and drive around in unmarked cars through neighborhoods to monitor.

So far, Mentor police have not made an arrest using the GPS tracking devices, but have caught suspects while undercover.

In December 2020, undercover Mentor officers arrested a 45-year-old Willoughby woman on suspicion of stealing packages from the porches of three homes.

Bell said residents can help catch porch pirates by registering any doorbell cameras through Lake County’s Security Camera Registration and Mapping program.

“Instead of going door to door, this lets us talk to residents who might have security footage when something happens in the neighborhood so we can find a bad guy faster,” he said.

Bell urged residents to be aware of their surroundings as retail theft and porch pirates incidents have increased and continue to increase.

When ordering items online, Bell said to keep track of the package’s estimated date and time of arrival. He added that while shopping to be sure to lock car doors.

“Some malls allow you to have items delivered there,” he said. “You can also put a lockbox on your front porch to keep items safe.”

Mentor police have had 17 reports of shoplifting from larger stores such as Meijer, Walmart, Best Buy and the Great Lakes Mall.

Bell said theft is expected to continue to increase and urged residents to check in with each other.

“If something doesn’t look right, it’s probably not,” Bell said. “Avoid it and call the police.”

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