How to Protect Your Packages From Porch Pirates

By: Dave Roos  | 
package thief
This package thief (like so many others) was caught on a video doorbell system stealing a package from the front porch a suburban home. RightFramePhotoVideo/Shutterstock

Porch piracy is a real thing. While the FBI doesn't provide any firm national statistics about package theft, home security firm SafeWise found that 79 percent of Americans have had a package stolen from their porch during the 12 months it conducted research for its fifth annual Package Theft in America report. That amounts to about 260 million packages.

This huge number is partly due to online shopping showing no signs of slowing. The same SafeWise report found that more than one in five Americans gets packages delivered at least once a week. We can thank the Amazon effect for that. (That's down from a high of 50 percent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

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Is Package Theft Getting Worse?

As we mentioned, almost 80 percent of Americans said they've had a package stolen from their porch — that's an increase of 15 percent over 2021. And the 2022 report shows that 40 percent of Americans said they plan to shop for their holiday gifts online, which means more packages on more porches at risk for theft. Holiday packages are typically more valuable, too, which provides more incentive for thieves.

Even if you have a home security system or a doorbell camera like a Ring, that's not enough to prevent package theft. In fact, the SmartWise survey found that 35 percent of homeowners whose packages were stolen had a security camera or video doorbell camera installed. Just do a YouTube search for "porch pirate" and you'll see dozens of these thieves caught in the act.

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What's worse is police make arrests in less than 10 percent of home package theft cases reported to them, Steven Malanga wrote for City Journal. And even if the cops do make an arrest, the thieves often are only charged with misdemeanors.

"Package theft is a low-risk crime," Dr. Ben Stickle, an expert on criminal justice and package theft, said in the report. "What's more, the risk is very low as well, and punishment, even if caught, is minimal. Additionally, the media attention given to package thieves may draw more people into the crime as they're made aware of the opportunity."

porch pirates
Nothing looks more enticing to a package thief than a front porch decked out for the holidays, full of boxes and packages. Don't be this homeowner.
Chad Robertson Media/Shutterstock

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How to Prevent Your Packages From Being Stolen

So if you order online — and who doesn't? — you probably want to protect your packages once they arrive, especially during the holidays. You don't want your precious haul stolen before you even get to wrapping gifts. Here's some good advice to avoid porch piracy:

  • Use delivery alerts. Most retailers or shipping companies let you opt in to tracking alerts, which let you know as soon as your package has arrived.
  • Have your package delivered to your neighbor's house if you won't be home to receive it immediately. Or ship it to your office if that's easier.
  • Require a signature for delivery. It's not very convenient, but this ensures your packages — especially valuable ones — can't be left on the front porch unattended.
  • Use an Amazon locker. Amazon handles more than half of all online purchases in America and has some ways to keep your packages safer. Customers can have items shipped to secure Amazon Lockers in 900 U.S. cities. These are kiosks located near grocery stores, apartment buildings and other heavily trafficked areas, where packages can be left securely. Once your package has been delivered, you can pick it up from a locker using a special security code. (You don't have to be a Prime member to use this service.)
  • Use Amazon Key. This electronic lock system allows Amazon delivery people to drop off packages directly inside your garage, gate or your house. The service is for Prime customers only.
  • Use a smart home security system like Ring or Nest, which has a doorbell camera and alerts you when someone is at your door. Having a system like this can be a deterrent to thieves but, as we mentioned, isn't a sure thing.
  • Check the services offered by the delivery companies. UPS offers a service that allows you to pick the date and time a package is delivered, so you can select a time when you'll be home (an additional fee applies). Packages can also be held at UPS Stores and other locations. FedEx allows you to have a package held at a local FedEx office, a Walgreens store or other locations. The U.S. Postal Service can also hold your packages or redirect delivery. All these companies will also notify you when a package has been delivered if you've created an account with them.

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Originally Published: Dec 4, 2019

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