(NEXSTAR) – Piracy is no longer limited to the high seas or the internet.
Multiple nationwide studies suggest that porch piracy — the theft of packages left on their rightful owners’ doorsteps — had been on the rise over the last few years, partly because more Americans are choosing to have their purchases delivered amid the pandemic.
“Porch piracy is a low-entry crime. There are no special skills needed to walk up a driveway and steal a package,” said criminal justice expert Dr. Ben Sickle, speaking on the results of a recent report from home-security site SafeWise and Cove Home Security.
Sickle also described package theft as a “crime of opportunity” — and warned that such opportunities are only becoming increasingly common during the Christmas season.
SafeWise estimates that approximately 210 million packages “disappeared from porches” in the year leading up to the publication of their survey results. A separate survey, conducted by Security.org, puts the value of 2021’s lost packages at somewhere around $2.4 billion dollars.
Whatever the cost, porch piracy is poised to deliver even more disappointment this holiday season — unless, of course, customers are extra dutiful in their attempts to thwart thieves.
Schedule your packages
FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and other courier and delivery services allow customers to track their packages, or set up alerts to learn when their deliveries have arrived. But some also allow you to schedule package delivery when it’s more convenient (i.e., when you’re home.) FedEx, for instance, offers scheduled delivery as a premium service, while Amazon allows Prime members to limit deliveries to specific days of the week.
Get your packages delivered elsewhere
All major delivery services will gladly send your package to one of their facilities or access points (kiosks, lockers, partner retail chains, etc.) rather than leave them at your doorstep. Even the U.S. Post Office offers a “hold for pickup” option, allowing recipients to pick up important packages on their time.
If those options don’t work, customers can always arrange to have their packages sent to a neighbor, a relative, or their places of work, increasing the likelihood that someone will be around to scoop it up.
Leave instructions for the delivery driver
No, this doesn’t mean you should post a note on your porch for the driver. (Porch pirates can read signs too.) Amazon customers, for instance, can sign up for in-garage delivery (free for Prime members), although users must already have a specific type of smart garage tool. FedEx’s Delivery Manager and UPS’ My Choice tools also allow customers to leave instructions for where their drivers should place packages.
Invest in a doorbell camera
Doorbell cameras won’t necessarily prevent package theft, but they can certainly deter less-brazen thieves. And if packages are still disappearing, at least there’s some footage to hand over to the police.
“We have prosecuted several cases in the past with the Ring doorbell, but if there’s no one who actually sees the theft, it’s virtually impossible,” Police Chief John Norman of the Girard Police Department in Ohio, said.
Be a good neighbor
If you suspect a thief is plundering the porches on your block, offer to pick up any packages that get delivered to a neighbors’ house. And if you see or suspect a crime in the community, report it to police.
“I’d say the most important thing is contact with neighbors to watch out for each other,” Det. Ken Hansen of Utah’s Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake, said.
Police, however, say it’s best to avoid chasing down the thief — leave that for the professionals.
“If [you] think something is suspicious going up on a porch or somebody is going up on a porch of your neighbor and you don’t know him and they’re not from the neighborhood or it looks like it might be a theft, give us a call,” Norman said.