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The growth of online shopping has exploded over the last five years. As avid consumers, we love its convenience, but the increase in package deliveries has given rise to a frustrating crime. Our purchases often rest on our front porches like sitting ducks, easy targets for package-stealing “porch pirates.”
While the concept of porch pirates is not new, their activities have increased dramatically. United Parcel Service (UPS) expected to deliver 750 million packages during the 2017 holiday season, up from 500 million five years ago. Unfortunately, porch pirates have seized the opportunity to cash in on this growing trend.
How Big is the Porch-Pirate Problem?
Deloitte’s annual retail survey for the 2017 holiday season predicted online shopping would exceed in-store spending for the first time ever. And while package thefts typically increase during the Black Friday-to-Christmas timeframe, they occur continuously throughout the year.
Nearly one in five U.S. homeowners have experienced package theft in the last year, according to a recent survey commissioned by Ring, a security and doorbell camera manufacturer. Research by Shorr, a packaging products company, put the number closer to one in three. Nextdoor, a private social networking service for neighborhoods, has reported a 500 percent increase in posts about missing packages during the holiday months.
Others see a connection between the rise in porch pirate theft and the opioid crisis. Jamie Siminoff, founder of Ring, explained how rural areas are often the hardest hit by both package theft and the opioid epidemic. Package theft, often easier to pull off in quiet, rural areas, can provide desperate opioid addicts with quick cash to feed their habit.
How Do Porch Pirates Operate?
Porch pirates often work in teams, driving slowly and repeatedly through neighborhoods. Typically, one thief drives the car, while the other quickly scoops up packages and jumps back in the car for a quick getaway.
Some groups will follow a UPS or FedEx truck through neighborhoods, grabbing packages as they are delivered. Some skip this step and break into parked delivery trucks.
According to Orange County police reports, these thieves often come from out of town. They target multiple communities at different socioeconomic levels – not just the upscale neighborhoods.
Most often, porch pirates attempt to quickly sell the stolen items, even online, ironically.
How To Protect Yourself Against Porch Pirate Theft
The good news? Delivery and home security companies offer a number of options to help you reduce your chances of becoming a porch pirate victim.
1. Invest in Home Security
- Install a security camera or doorbell cam, such as models by Nest and Ring, by your front door
- Post a warning sign that your front porch is under surveillance
- Place a locked parcel box near your mailbox or front door
- Install motion-censored outdoor lighting
- Sign up for Amazon Key, a service that allows you to monitor your door remotely, allow for keyless entry and set up secure in-home Amazon delivery
2. Consider Alternate Shipping Destinations
- Ship your packages to a location where you’ll be during the day, such as your work address
- Take advantage of secure location services offered by package delivery companies. Amazon, for example, will ship your packages to an Amazon Locker or Amazon Pickup Location. UPS partners with local businesses and can ship your packages to these UPS Access Point locations, or to an official UPS store. Similarly, you can have your FedEx packages held at a nearby FedEx office for pickup at your convenience.
3. Customize Your Delivery
Most major package delivery companies will accept special delivery instructions to help ensure your package ends up in your hands and not those of a porch pirate:
- Customize home delivery to fit your schedule, using services such as FedEx Delivery Manager
- Provide special instructions, for example, “place package on back porch”
- Redirect packages to an alternate location, for example, a vacation house
- Schedule an exact delivery date using services such as the United States Postal Service (USPS) Priority Mail Express
- Consider secure services, such as USPS Registered Mail or FedEx signature required
4. Enlist Help from Neighbors
You can always stick with the simple, time-tested alternative of relying on trusted neighbors. Ask them to check for and store your packages during the day or when you’re on vacation.
What To Do If Your Package Gets Stolen
If you’re a victim of porch pirate theft, report the problem to local law enforcement, supplying the officers with security camera footage, if available. Even if your package is a low-value item, reporting the problem can help police to uncover larger theft operations. Also, be sure to contact the retailer or delivery company to see if you can get a refund – Amazon will often ship a replacement at no charge – or some type of compensation.