It’s that time of year again — a time of rampant cheer, infectious joy and dispiriting stories of coldhearted front porch thievery played out night after night on the local evening news.

You probably already know — and have been personally impacted by — this story. It’s a story that plays out each holiday season in otherwise quiet neighborhoods in every corner of the country. And it’s a story that, thanks to the meteoric rise of online shopping, is only getting worse. A recent report published by, estimates that a staggering 23 million Americans have had freshly delivered packages swiped from their doorsteps by so-called “porch pirates" who often tail delivery trucks before going in for the plunder.

However, during this most theft-heavy time of year, some people aren’t allowing themselves to be victimized. They're fighting back against brazen, gift-snatching crooks. How, you may ask?

As reported by the Associated Press, the residents of Daybreak, a master-planned community in South Jordan, Utah, are deterring holiday package theft by leaving out ordinary-looking shipping boxes — some with old Amazon labels still intact — and filling them with an array of undesirable items. Basically, it’s a bit off eggnog-fueled subterfuge; a reverse switcheroo; a sort of package delivery-centric spin on the ages-old office trick of lacing your mysteriously disappearing lunch with Ex-Lax as a means of punishing whomever is stealing it.

Real estate agent and Daybreak resident Kroger Menzer explains the aim of the decoy package scheme to KSL-TV: “The goal isn't to catch them in the act, that's for the police. The goal is to make it confusing and frustrating. So they come and steal a box, and they get home and it's a bunch of rocks, there's a good chance that they're probably not going to come back to steal another box."

Menzer goes on to elaborate that it was a neighbor who initially came up with the idea: “When Jeff came up with the idea, it spread like wildfire. The post spread to Riverton and Herriman. That's why this is going to work, because it's not just a half dozen homes doing it. It's a whole community."

Menzer goes on to note that some neighborhood residents are looking at the ruse in a more charitable light, figuring that a sticky-fingered perp bold enough to steal a package right off someone’s front porch in broad daylight must be hurting. These residents have decided to fill their boxes not with rocks but with old, cast-off clothing items that would have otherwise been donated.

“Some people are looking at the folks that are doing this and saying, 'Well, maybe they just need a leg up,'" Menzer explained. "'So let's put some of our clothes that we don't need any more, and maybe they'll find their way into the hands of the people that need them.'"

Rocks and old clothes are, of course, pretty inoffensive. It sends a message but also doesn’t (ideally) further provoke or escalate the situation. That said, it’s unclear if anyone in the "close-knit" community has embraced their inner Kevin McAllister and decided to strike back in a more aggressive manner by opting for, let’s say, used Kleenex, spring-loaded glitter bombs or a bag of toenail clippings.

Of course, the ultimate way to thwart — and potentially anger — a porch pirate is to bestow upon them a fresh bowel movement.

While thief-baiting excrement boxes aren’t mentioned by KSL-TV in Utah, a beleaguered homeowner in Las Vegas named Eric Burdo reportedly went the dog feces route. His poop-filled gotcha box sat outside of his home for days before an unsuspecting thief made off with it. "Hopefully they don't do it again and they learn their lesson," Bardo told KTNV in a story titled "Homeowner speaks out about putting poop in a box."

And Burdo isn’t alone. Last year, a Washington, D.C., couple effectively put an end to a string of pilfered packages by leaving a thief with a surprise that he’ll likely never forget.

Back in Utah, Lt. John Barker of the Unified Police Department is quick to state that he doesn’t recommend that residents put themselves in harm’s way. After all, rocks placed in a decoy box could easily be used to break a window.

Instead, Barker suggests setting up a surveillance camera. (Good for nabbing outdoor Christmas decoration thieves, too). Other methods of preventing holiday package theft include arranging for a specific delivery time to ensure that the parcel lands in its intended hands. Having packages delivered to one’s workplace, the home of a neighbor, an Amazon Locker pickup point or to a new-ish UPS Access Point pickup location are other alternatives. And for the love of god, don't have a 40-inch flat-screen TV delivered to your home at the same time you're going to be in Mexico soaking up the sun for 10 days. That's just asking for it.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Utah neighborhood plays 'gotcha' with holiday package thieves
What unsavory item would you place in a decoy package?