Taking Revenge on Porch Pirates?
Home deliveries have made our lives a lot easier, haven’t they?
It used to be when someone mailed something to you that did not fit in your mailbox, the deliverer would leave you a note about it.
You then had to take that note – often after a long day at work – to the post office to claim your package.
And that was assuming you could get to the post office before it closed for the day. If not, you had to try another time.
Special delivery for… oops it’s gone
These days, packages are usually left on door stoops or porches by a variety of services. U.S. Postal Service, Fed Ex, UPS, etc. That’s assuming it’s not something you have to sign for.
While it’s much more convenient to have a package waiting for you when you get home instead of having to rush to the post office, there’s a downside.
And that downside has become known as the porch pirate. These thieves are everywhere. Lower class neighborhoods, middle class neighborhoods, upper class neighborhoods… you name it.
These lowlifes do very little all day other than drive around, looking for packages left in front of homes. They then steal them and keep the contents for themselves, use them for their own gift-giving or sell them.
$25 million is at stake
Of course, this time of year is the prime season for porch pirates. The holidays mean many more deliveries. And many more times when homeowners are not home.
Jose Holguin-Veras is an engineering professor and director. He works for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems in New York.
In the time it took you to read that mouthful, several packages were probably stolen off the porches of Americans. He says more than 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing every day in the U.S.
Those stolen or missing packages result in $25 million in lost items and services.
Disappointing children, endangering the elderly
The people (and I use the term loosely) who engage in this activity probably give no thought to whom they rip off.
Like the little girl who asked Santa for a certain Barbie doll. Or the boy who asked his parents for a certain video game. Or the elderly couple who receive their medications in the mail.
Short of hiring a guard to watch your front porch, there’s little you can do to stop this thievery. Or is there?
Some homeowners are getting creative in the ways they teach porch pirates a lesson.
Dirty diapers and deafening detonations
One homeowner in St. Louis, Missouri intentionally left a box on her porch recently. The thief was probably not amused when he found it filled with soiled diapers.
A West Virginia man rigged a 12-gauge shotgun primer to go off when someone tries to lift a box off his porch.
The loud noise scares but does not harm the potential thieves. He claims to have startled 30 people trying to steal the box.
This reusable box has become so popular that it is now mass produced and sells for between $40 and $90.
Glitter bomb stinks for thieves
Another way to thwart package thieves is the glitter bomb. This device sprays glitter on anyone trying to steal a box from your front stoop.
Some of these glitter bombs also spray a very unpleasant odor on the would-be thief.
Decoy boxes have been known to include dog feces, used cat litter and other waste material.
And when security cameras catch thieves in the act, the homeowner can post the video on social media and ask people to share it until the thief is identified and caught.
‘Bait Package’ gets results
In Oregon, the Washington County Police Department started a program called “Bait Package.”
Volunteers put boxes outside their front doors that have sensors and GPS trackers. When a box is moved, police receive alerts and dispatch officers to follow it.
As a result, thieves who assume they won’t get caught find themselves facing fines. Not to mention jail time if they’re on parole.
A deputy with the department said that a 20 percent drop in package theft has been recorded since the Bait Package program’s launch.
Keep your packages safe
If you live in an area where porch pirates are a problem, there are some options you might want to consider.
One is having packages held for you at your local post office. Another is making sure deliveries are not made without your signature.
You can also help out your neighbors by reporting suspicious behavior. Including vehicles that seem to be following delivery trucks.
Or, you could pull a prank on a thief by placing garbage in a decoy box. A potential downside, however, is angering someone who is already reckless enough to steal from you.
Hopefully more and more of these porch pirates will be exposed, embarrassed and punished. They deserve nothing less.