Package Theft Prevention Tips for a Happier Holiday Season
theft increases as deliveries rise during the holiday season—here’s how to stop
Porch pirates, like real-life versions of the Grinch, spring into high gear during the holiday season. Each year, more of us avoid bad weather, traffic, crowded stores, and long check-out lines to complete our holiday shopping online. Gifts are shipped to givers or friends and loved ones who live far away—making package theft prevention a priority.
Unfortunately, the steep increase in package delivery this time of year comes with an equally steep rise in the number of gifts stolen from outside people’s homes almost as soon as they’re delivered. Let’s take a closer look at the scope of the problem, some tips to stop porch pirates, and what you can do if a package is stolen.
pirates are a huge problem in the United States
One study estimates that package theft affected more than 26 million Americans in 2016. That’s about 8% of the U.S. population. Many thieves are stealing packages in broad daylight while recipients are at work. According to postal service spokesman Gus Ruiz, some porch pirates even follow delivery trucks down the street, stealing unattended deliveries before anyone even has a chance to bring them inside.
Although package theft is a year-round problem, it’s an even bigger issue during the holiday season, when the number of items shipped increases dramatically. In fact, this year, the U.S. Postal Service is hiring 100,000 temporary workers to help with holiday deliveries, as it expects a delivery rate that’s nearly double its 20 million packages daily average.
It’s not only the increase in the number of packages delivered that contributes to the holiday package theft problem; it's also the value of the items being delivered. One study found that during the holidays, the average value of each package shipped jumps from $28 to $124.
faced with package theft are fighting back
Yen Gelman, who lives in a four-unit condo building in San Francisco, made a point of being home the day he was expecting something from Amazon that was worth $200. He received a text alert that his package had been delivered, but it was already too late. A thief claiming to be Gelman had accepted the package, sliced through the tape, removed the items from the box, and fled the scene. Although Amazon replaced the stolen items, the thief was never apprehended.
After losing several packages to porch pirates, a Sinking Spring, PA woman created her own trap by placing packages filled with trash on her front steps and setting up camera surveillance. Soon after, a man was caught on video snatching the boxes. The police were then able to use the footage to apprehend him.
Several Jersey City, NJ officials, including the mayor and the chief of police, have also been victims of package theft. Fed up, city police set their own trap for porch pirates in December 2018. After contacting Amazon for help, they set Amazon boxes rigged with GPS tracking devices out in front of area homes. On the first day of the sting alone, three suspects were arrested. Jersey City police are also using doorbell cameras to get images of people stealing items.
these tips to prevent package theft and stop porch pirates
Never leave packages to sit outside your door for long if you can avoid it. According to Captain Bob Wooldridge of the Knoxville, TN Police Department, “The worst thing you can do is have a package sit out all day and night, because you never know when a would-be thief might do their own Christmas shopping off your front porch.“
Track packages so you know when to expect them and can plan accordingly. If you can’t be home to receive deliveries in person, have items shipped to your work address, a post office box, or to the home of a friend or neighbor who’s around during the day.
FedEx delivery locations can be changed up to the end of the business day before delivery is scheduled. You can also request to pick packages up from a FedEx retail location (which include Walgreens and Albertsons stores) or ask that a FedEx delivery be held until a time when you can be home to receive it in person. UPS also offers delivery to a UPS facility or retail store and the ability to reschedule deliveries. Amazon’s latest effort towards package theft prevention is something called “Amazon Day Delivery” which offers consolidated weekly Amazon deliveries for Amazon Prime members on the day of their choosing.
If possible, request delivery alerts so that you’re informed as soon as packages are delivered. Many companies also allow you to provide delivery instructions when placing your order. Take advantage of this opportunity to request that delivery personnel place packages in hidden locations, like behind a potted plant or piece of furniture on your front porch, inside a screen door, or on a back porch. Other options include requiring a signature for all deliveries or posting a prominent notice that your premises are under surveillance.
cameras stop porch pirates in their tracks
Doorbell cameras are one of the best weapons in today’s package-theft-prevention arsenal. This blog has only scratched the surface of the many instances in which video surveillance has either stopped thieves or helped the police locate criminals engaged in package theft. Not only can doorbell cameras capture images of the perpetrators themselves; camera footage may also include images of the thieves’ vehicles and even license plates.
Doorbell cameras equipped with motion sensors can alert you immediately when packages are delivered, which is handy when they arrive unexpectedly or when notifications from the shipping service are delayed or non-existent. Doorbell cameras equipped with two-way audio can even be used to safely scare away would-be thieves before they have a chance to steal your packages.
Combining a doorbell camera with smart locks can make for a very effective package theft prevention strategy. If a Frontpoint Security customer has a doorbell camera installed, he or she receives an instant alert when the camera’s motion sensor registers a delivery person approaching the front door. It’s even possible to use the camera’s two-way audio feature to inform the delivery person that the front door will be unlocked for them (using a smart door lock controlled through the Frontpoint app) and to request that they place the package just inside and shut the door.
Once the door has been closed (which can be verified using the camera’s live video stream), the homeowner re-locks the door and re-arms the security system. Ta-da! The package is secure, with no need to stop at a package pick-up location, provide a home security code to a delivery service, or allow a stranger unmonitored entry to the home.
do if an Amazon package is stolen
Maybe you’ve done everything you can to follow package theft prevention best practices, but porch pirates still stole your stuff. Or you simply hoped for the best and were rewarded with a missing item. What now?
If you ordered through Amazon, their “Where’s My Stuff” page has lots of helpful information. Otherwise, you can contact the specific company you ordered from, or the shipping carrier that was used for the delivery to review their policies on packages that never truly arrive. Filing a police report for stolen packages is a must. And be sure to provide law enforcement with video camera surveillance footage, if you have it.
Package theft is a very real problem in this country. It affects millions of Americans year-round, but especially during the holidays. If you follow these tips on how to stop porch pirates, you can save yourself time, money, and hassle—and installing a smart home security system with a doorbell camera, smart locks, and mobile notifications is the best defense.