JERSEY CITY, NJ — An undercover detective leaves a bait box on a Jersey City stoop. Meanwhile back at the precinct, plain clothes police already packed that box with a toy or some Nike sneakers.
What an unwitting package thief does not know is that police also embedded a GPS tracking device inside every item.
"Yesterday actually, this is what our first guy was caught with was the sneakers. He took it out of the box like that and he was walking down the street, just holding it," said Jersey City Police Sgt. Gary Moffitt.
An alarm alerts a detective monitoring the trackers that a dummy package is on the move. He then radios live coordinates to police on patrol, and then they move in to make the arrest.
"So the burglary unit and their commanders, they contacted Amazon to ask if there were any programs," said Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly. "And there were none on the east coast currently, but Amazon suggested that they had something they could lend us, which were in the form of GPS devices."
Jersey City Police were able to visit an Amazon packing plant in New Jersey to get authentic Amazon boxes and packing tape, Kelly said. So far, the sting has netted three arrests in the first 24 hours.
"Yesterday took us all of eight minutes to get our first one," said Chief Kelly.
There were around 400 reports of package theft in Jersey City last year. Police are hoping this effort will catch or deter most from stealing holiday gifts from doorsteps going forward.
"We want folks in Jersey City to be comfortable ordering packages and we want them to know the police department is working hard," said Kelly.