By Tamas Mondovics

The holiday season is a busy time for most, including thieves who look to turn online shoppers into victims of a “crime of opportunity.”

While shopping for holiday gifts via the internet continues to be a popular alternative to the department store, those purchases have to be delivered, which is what package thieves are counting on.

An example of such a crime was reported to HCSO deputies right on schedule at the start of the shopping season late last month when a “thankful thief” removed several packages from the porch of three residences in the Waterset Community of Apollo Beach.  

Detectives said that all three thefts took place on the same street, indicating that the suspect who took the packages shortly after they were delivered were actually trailing the delivery truck. Surveillance video for two of the thefts showed that the suspect was a white male, between 18 and 25 years of age, with short dark hair, had counted on the possibility of cameras and had covered his face with a shirt.  

At this time law enforcement believe that all three cases were committed by the same suspect, deputies said.

Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the unknown suspect in these cases and is asking anyone with any information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).

The incident is a reminder to use precautions, including the most obvious, not to have packages delivered home in the first place. Instead, have them delivered to a workplace or a post office box. That, however is an option not everyone has.

Other options that can be implemented may include order-online/pick-up in-store or a service that allows products ordered through the website to be delivered to secure locations.

At the end of the day, residents are urged to be vigilant in all aspects of the busy shopping season.

“The Sheriff’s Office will be doing its part to help keep the citizens of Hillsborough County safe,” said HCSO Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon, but added, “This also leaves residents to do their part by staying informed, alert and educated about their personal safety and the safety of their own property.”

For car safety tips, watch PSAs at http://www.hcso.tampa.fl.us/Articles/Articles/Lock-It-Up!.aspx).