Subscribe Today! Please read: Readers of local content on the Herald and News website – heraldandnews.com – will require a subscription beginning today. For the first few months, non-subscribers will still be able to view 10 articles for free. If you are not already a subscriber, now is a great time to join for as little as $10/month!

The Porch Pirates are in overdrive.

Their crimes are unfolding on doorsteps across the nation as Christmas presents, ordered from online retailers, arrive by the hundred of millions. And plenty of those packages disappear.

The thieves are totally legit villains now because they have an official villain name. Search Porch Pirates on Twitter or other social media, and you’ll see what I mean.

But some of the 26 million victims who say they’ve had boxes swiped from their porches are heroically fighting back, determined to protect their precious packages.

They’re using booby traps, secret cameras, geo-trackers and bait boxes. The scenes of Good vs. Evil being posted online make for days of great comic-book reading, complete with shaming doorbell video clips of sneaky pirates, clumsy pirates, grandma pirates in flowery tunics, at least one pirate in a bra — even regretful pirates who’ve returned to the scene of the crime to leave an apology note.

And paid crimefighters are now in on the action, with police chiefs calling porch pirates the scourge of the holiday season and investigators setting up sting operations like the Fort Worth (Texas) Police Department’s “Operation Grinch Pinch” or the police in Wheeling, W.V., leaving snarky notes wishing the duped bad guys “Merry Christmas.

But the doorstep vigilantes are the most entertaining. There’s even a guy in Tacoma, Wash., who is marketing a device that sets off a 12-gauge blank the moment a pirate lifts the bait package.

One D.C. woman, fed up with having nearly $1,000 worth of packages stolen from her Capitol Hill porch, left a pretty awesome present for her pirates — a box heavy with her two dogs’ poop.

“It didn’t stop them, though,” Andrea Hutzler reported.

What did stop them was a Nancy Drew combination of sleuthing and teamwork after a porch camera spotted a white truck driving away, and a neighborhood email discussion group identified the truck and got the license plate.

Police used the license plate to track down the driver, who ultimately turned on the partner, Hutzler said.

That didn’t stop other Porch Pirates from swooping in.

How did she finally stop the thefts?

“We moved. We’re in Northern Virginia now,” Hutzler said. “I’ve lived in Illinois, Houston, New Orleans, overseas. It never happened anywhere but D.C.”

It’s not vigilante citizens out there catching porch pirates — it’s cash-strapped police departments setting up sting operations and following leads from home camera clips, doing the legwork that big box stores used to be responsible for.

Pretty slick, eh?

Happy shopping. Don’t forget the booby trap.

Gerry OBrien, Editor