A police spokeswoman said that by setting up a contraption on his porch, involving a shotgun, the man might be committing a crime, but it would be up to prosecutors to make a final call.
TACOMA — After the fourth time it happened in recent months, Jaireme Barrow was tired of people stealing packages off his South Tacoma front porch.
So he created a device to deter them, and on Dec. 11 set up an alluring bait box containing the contraption.
It started off with a bang as Barrow sat on the couch in his living room.
“I didn’t know what was going on for a minute,” he said. “I thought it was somebody being shot because I heard her scream, so I grabbed my Mace and went outside.”
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He was just in time to watch the would-be thief scurry away to a waiting car — after all, shotgun blasts do tend to scare people.
Barrow’s box is pretty simple — it contains a plate holding back a firing pin, connected to a string tied to his interior doorknob. When the box is pulled on hard enough, the plate moves, allowing the firing pin to set off a 12-gauge shotgun blank.
Cue fleeing thief.
“I know it’s crude, but there’s nothing scarier than a 12-gauge,” Barrow said.
Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said she doesn’t think Barrow’s box serves as a deterrent or is a good idea.
“If the would-be package thief is hurt in any way, the homeowner would be responsible,” Cool said.
She also said she thinks what Barrow’s doing might be a crime, but it would be up to prosecutors to make a final call.
“I believe there are criminal charges, but it would be up to them if they charged or not,” Cool said.
Barrow’s box contraption has lured more than one would-be thief, The News Tribune reported.
Another “porch pirate” came to his front doorstep a couple days after the first woman ran off.
(A well-placed doorbell camera lets Barrow — and then the world — see the package trap in action, even if he’s not home.)
The man approached the front door tepidly and was spooked by a motion-sensor light. But a companion in a getaway car seemed to egg him on, so he went back toward the house to grab the package.
The man left in such a hurry that Barrow ended up with his cellphone.
“Poetic justice,” he said.
But because the potential thieves didn’t take anything, they could be charged only with trespassing, he said.
While scary, Barrow says, the device is safe. He said he’s tested the box himself “dozens of times,” even putting a tomato inside the box one time to simulate flesh.
“It never hurt me once,” he said. “It didn’t hurt the tomato in there either.”
He says neighbors haven’t complained about the device. Instead, “They think anything that deters people from stealing things from my porch and theirs is a good thing.”
Police spokeswoman Cool said that while the department is not thrilled with Barrow’s booming box, video from his doorbell camera did help officers track down and arrest an alleged thief recently.