Ways to Thwart Porch Pirates This Holiday Season

I would guess there have been more home deliveries in the U.S. in 2020 than ever before. And that was probably true even before Black Friday and most of the holiday gift deliveries were made.

Many of those home deliveries this year were food from grocery stores and restaurants. Others were products we used to purchase in-person at various stores.

During a recent three-month period, 5 million people ordered from the Target website. Walmart saw a 74 percent online sales growth. Amazon hired 175,000 more workers to keep up with demand.

Over the next couple of weeks, countless home deliveries will be made as people order last-minute holiday gifts.

Here today, gone… later today

With the huge increase in home deliveries comes a huge increase in something else. I’m talking about porch pirates.

Sometimes we’re not home to receive a package from the U.S. Postal Service, Fed Ex, UPS or another delivery service. So, it’s usually left on the front porch.

There are people who do nothing all day except drive around neighborhoods looking for packages on porches. Or in front of apartment doors. Especially during the holiday season.

Once they get home, they open the packages. Then they decide whether they want to keep the item for themselves. Or sell it or give it as a gift to an unsuspecting recipient.

Pandemic provides more opportunities

More than 25.8 million American households have been victims of thieves stealing Christmas gifts from in front of their homes’ doors. That’s according to Insurance Quotes.

The more brazen of these thieves follow delivery trucks around and then swoop in. Some even rip open packages right there, taking what they want and leaving the rest.

Porch pirates are out in full force during the pandemic. They know just about everyone is ordering deliveries these days.

The average value of a stolen package is $140. The top five U.S. cities for package thefts are San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston and Portland. Next come Washington, D.C., Oakland, Baltimore, Atlanta and Sacramento.

Stealing without regret

Approximately 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing every day in America. The result is $25 million in lost items and services.

So says Jose Holguin-Veras. He’s an engineering professor and director. He works for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems in New York. (I wonder how he fits all that on his business card.)

Porch pirates don’t care how much they hurt the people from whom they steal. Including the little boy expecting a video game. Or a little girl hoping for a Barbie doll.

Not to mention the elderly couple waiting anxiously for their much-needed medications.

Revenge is sweet

Some folks have gotten sick and tired of porch pirates making off with their packages.

A St. Louis, Missouri homeowner filled a box with soiled diapers and left it on her porch. The thief was probably not amused when he opened the package.

In West Virginia, a man rigged a 12-gauge shotgun primer to go off when someone tried to lift a box off his porch. It scares the would-be thief but doesn’t hurt him.

Someone else devised a glitter bomb box. It sprays a rather unpleasant odor on the thief. Decoy packages have been known to contain dog feces, used cat litter and other waste material.

Setting the trap

In one Oregon community, a program called Bait Package was launched by the Washington County Police Department.

Volunteers place packages containing sensors and GPS trackers outside their front doors. When a box is moved, police receive a report in real time and send out an officer to follow it.

Thieves think they’re getting away with something until they’re pulled over and arrested.

The program resulted in a 20 percent reduction in package theft, according to a department deputy.

Some protection options

Even if you’re home when a package is delivered, it could be stolen before you notice it has arrived.

One option is to have packages held for you at the post office. Or insist that deliveries not be left at your home without your signature.

Another idea is forming a neighborhood watch group, Neighbors can keep an eye out for this sort of thing. If you know a package is coming, arrange to have a delivery alert sent to your cell phone.

If you live close to an Amazon location, you can use their lockers for security. There is no fee for this option. But it does involve driving there to retrieve the box.

What to do if it happens

Some folks place home security signs on their doors or windows. This might scare off some thieves. Others have packages delivered to their workplaces.

If you learn a box was stolen from your front porch, notify the sender and police. Installing a front porch camera might not get your package back, but it may help police identify the thief.

While placing garbage in a box on your porch might turn the tables on a thief, it’s not something I recommend. If someone is reckless enough to steal from you, they probably have no qualms about coming back to vandalize your property if angered.

Hopefully more and more porch pirates will be caught, arrested and prosecuted. That’s what they deserve.

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