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Porch pirates are having a harder time getting their hands on Christmas gifts this year.

Due to the increase in the number of packages being delivered during the holiday season, open-area thefts have been a major issue in recent years. But that hasn't been the case this year, as the Lincoln Police Department has reported a significant decline in the number of stolen items.

Through the first two weeks of December 2017, 138 open-area thefts had been reported. This year, the number was 24. LPD attributes the decline to several factors, including the use of alternative pickup sites, such as Amazon's locker initiative.

Amazon customers have the option to ship their packages to their address or to one of Amazon's authorized lockers. The Whole Foods at Lyncrest Drive and O Street is home to the lone locker in Lincoln.

Leslie Smith, a manager at the store, said Whole Foods locations in bigger cities began receiving Amazon deliveries shortly after the two companies merged in June 2017, with Lincoln's locker starting to store packages in April 2018.

"We have seen a huge increase in traffic to the locker," she said. "We've had it since April so we've seen incremental increase, but over the holidays now, we have people coming in all throughout the day for their packages. There's been a couple times the locker has been completely packed full."

According to Smith, it doesn't take too much extra effort to utilize the service. When a customer completes an order on Amazon, they can simply set the shipping address to an authorized shipment facility, then Amazon will send a confirmation bar code and pin number that allows the customer to access their package.

"It's really simple," Smith said. "[The locker] is in the cafe so it's really easy to get to. You have that peace of mind of having your package in a safe environment, so overall it's a really awesome thing."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or wstone@journalstar.com.

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Newsroom intern

Newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

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