Last December, the Aurora Police Department partnered with Amazon, Ring and 7P Solutions to run a package theft sting.  But was the department just duped into running a public relations scheme for Amazon?

The operation involved equipping fake Amazon packages with GPS trackers, and surveilling doorsteps with Ring doorbell cameras in an effort to catch someone stealing a package on tape.

According to Vice’s Motherboard, Aurora Police received 25 Amazon boxes, Amazon-branded tape, and Amazon lithium ion stickers as a part of the operation. It also received 15 Ring doorbell cameras and 15 GL300W GPS trackers from 7P Solutions.

It involved seven Aurora zip codes. These companies spent days with the Aurora Police Department preparing them for the operation and discussing local news coverage and rewriting press releases. The sting netted ZERO arrests.

A story by Denver’s ABC 7 may help us understand why.  A week before Christmas, the station ran the following segment:

Aurora police have launched an operation to nab porch pirates dead in their tracks this holiday season, it’s called Operation Grinch Grab. Police started setting out the decoys on Wednesday with GPS tracking devices in them.

“It came together quickly,” said Captain Matthew Longshore, APD spokesperson. “Amazon was able to provide boxes. Ring overnighted us Ring doorbells.” The initial sting included 15 bait packages sealed with Amazon’s official tape, some rocks and the GPS device. “It’s a GPS tracker that uses cellular technology so we’re able to real-time monitor where the device goes,” Longshore said.

The device also has a light sensor.

“So, if someone decides to tear open a package while it’s still on the porch – it alerts us of the same thing so we can move in for a possible arrest.”

Dispatchers are able to track the devices and can have undercover officers roll on the package once it is picked up. They put lithium ion stickers on the boxes to give the illusion that the boxes contain a TV, a laptop or something of value.

Longshore also said:

“We want the bad guys to know that we’re out here looking. We are going to make arrests. We’re tired this.”

Amazon requested to have its name removed from the press release. They said that it had nothing to do with the sting itself, but instead, because they were using an outdated logo.

“The short-term goal is an arrest, but the long term is educating the community about package thefts and taking a proactive approach to reducing crimes thereby improving overall safety,” Longshore continued. “As we work to reduce crime, apprehending criminals is part of the process but making arrests is not our primary goal. By inviting media to publicize the operation, we hope to deter what would be package thief’s and further educate the public on these types of crimes.”

So, why no arrests? The ABC 7 segment ran the same day that the operation began. Is it possible that package thieves watch TV? Is it possible that the ‘bad guys’ saw the piece and spread the word? Nothing like providing intel for your enemy.

As reported by Motherboard earlier this year, Amazon has also been fostering a relationship with law enforcement through the promotion of Rekognition, a real-time facial recognition software that’s relatively inexpensive.

San Francisco, California and Somerville, Massachusetts have both banned facial recognition from their cities, citing concerns about the safety and accuracy of the software. However, can the city ban the use of facial recognition for individual home-owners?

While it is an interesting concept to partner with law-enforcement, as these package theft sting operations show that Amazon and Ring are also engaging in intimate working relationships with specific police departments and organizing the set-up of individual operations, it is also ironic.

Jeff Bezos owns Amazon. He also owns the Washington Post, which has no problem running articles and editorials that absolutely show disdain, dislike and distrust of our law enforcement agencies. 

Was this just a bad operation for the APD because of the other parties involved? Was the media story running the same day the sting started the reason for its ineffectiveness? Or, on the flip side, was it more effective than we might at first believe?

None of the 15 packages were stolen. Were other packages lifted, or did all the actual packages make it to their intended recipients? That data is not available. That piece of information could change the entire dynamic of this story.