Milpitas Police Department catches alleged porch pirate during 'bait box' operation

MILPITAS, Calif. (KGO) -- Eight minutes is all it took for one package thief to strike in Milpitas. What the suspect didn't know was police put out the decoy delivery box.

The Milpitas Police Department said 37-year-old Flor Estela Hernandez of San Jose was caught picking up a package that didn't belong to her.

The Department's Crime Reduction Team conducted a bait package operation on the 1500-block of McCandless Drive, on Dec. 11.

Around 1:48 p.m., officers put the bait package on a residential doorstep. They watched as Hernandez drove up in her 1999 Mazda Protégé, parked her car, and took the bait package.

"She got out, took the package from the porch and went back into her car," Lt. John Torrez told ABC7 News.

He said Hernandez drove away. Officers stopped on the 100-block of Newbury Street and arrested her.

"In this particular case, with the property that we had inside of our package, the value was over $950, which made it a felony," Lt. Torrez explained. "So we were able to book the suspect in this particular case for a felony crime. If it's under a certain amount it may be a misdemeanor crime."

The San Jose resident was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for grand theft and being an unlicensed driver.

Milpitas Police Department say her car was also impounded.

In a release, the police department urged residents to consider having packages delivered to their workplace or to a place they know will have someone available to immediately receive the package.

Milpitas police remind the public, "Online retailers, such as Amazon, allow for packages to be delivered to Amazon Hub Lockers and in addition to allowing their Prime customers to choose, Amazon Day, which allows you to pick delivery on the day you choose. Taking these steps could prevent you from becoming a victim of package theft."

Those living in the area of 1500 McCandless Drive told ABC7 News they're heeding warning from police and are now opting out of home delivery.

Xin Li said, "My stuff always arrives at the lockbox."

"I choose to deliver to my office," resident Xin Liu explained.

Jay Nguyen added, "The best thing is usually I go somewhere where there's a locker and I pick it up there."

RELATED: Porch pirate poses as Amazon employee to steal packages from home

However, for those who choose convenience over caution, Milpitas PD hope the bait boxes will help deter the bad behavior.

One neighbor who wished to remain anonymous shared his skepticism.

"Is this the right solution," he asked. "Or do they need to change the law, or take a stricter action?"

The neighbor said his family has lost three packages to porch pirates.

He shared video with ABC7 News, which showed a man taking a delivery right from his front door.

He said beyond the current operation, more needs to be done.

"There are cameras in every single house, and they're still stealing it because of that stupid law that says that anything under $900, they can walk free."

Lt. Torrez confirmed, "A lot of it's going to depend on the item type and the value of it."

RELATED: Mom sets trap for porch pirate after daughter's medication stolen

Milpitas PD adds, residents are encouraged to report suspicious persons and/or vehicles by calling the Milpitas Police Department at 408-586-2400.

Additionally, if you have any information regarding this investigation, please call the Milpitas Police Department at (408) 586-2400. The information can be given anonymously by calling the Crime Tip Hotline at (408) 586-2500 or via the Milpitas Police Department Website here

"We've deployed it a handful of times," Lt. Torrez said about the bait packages. "This was probably one of the first times that we've had an actual success with the package being stolen."

He said additional arrests have been made for the same crime, with help from the community.

Check out more stories and videos related to Porch Pirates here.
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