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Mesa County authorities are hoping to catch would-be porch pirates red-handed this holiday season.

Packages being stolen off of porches is a big problem this time of year and the Mesa County Sheriff's Office is hoping to slow down holiday theft in the Grand Valley - and maybe even catch some thieves in the act. The idea is to trick a thief into stealing a package and then track him or her down and catch them with the goods.

Here's how Operation Porch Pirate Bait works.

Areas that have seen criminal activity are targeted, especially where cars have been broken in to and porch thefts have occurred. Deputies put tracking devices into packages and bags that look like legitimate holiday purchases and put them in cars at businesses where theft has occurred or in particular neighborhoods.  The decoys look like the real thing. The "fake" items are monitored with active surveillance. When an item is stolen it can be located and police can find the person who took it.

Not only can thieves be apprehended through this operation, but it may also cause some would-be porch pirates to think twice before committing a crime. Either way, authorities have a chance to reduce the amount of loss suffered by local residents. Just imagine the look on some thief's face when he thinks he just scored a holiday gold mine, only to have the police knocking on the door. Busted!

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office offers some tips to shoppers on how to protect your valuable purchases.

* When you are out shopping, keep your purchases locked in the trunk, or, at least, out of sight inside your vehicle.
* This one seems like a no-brainer, but, lock your vehicle every time you leave it. Sure, thieves may still be able to break-in, but, a locked car will certainly discourage a lot of would-be thieves.
* Try to limit the amount of time a delivered package remains on your porch.
* If you know you aren't going to be home when a package is delivered, ask a trusted neighbor to hold the package for you until you get home.
* If your employer will allow it, consider having packages delivered to your workplace rather than your residence.
* Have your packages held at the post office and pick them up there.
* Utilize an Amazon Locker at a secure location.

You might think that theft can't happen to you, but, the reality is nobody is exempt. It can happen to any of us, and we would do ourselves a favor to take a little precaution - or as they say, "an ounce of prevention..." Don't let some no-good porch pirate ruin your Christmas.

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