Thieves make hay while Santa shines.
Call it the flip side of affluence or what you will. Come Christmas, ‘porch pirates’ are a growing problem in neighborhoods across the United States. Over 25 million Americans have been victims of holiday package robbery this year, an increase from 23 million porch thefts in 2015.
A national survey in 2015 by Princeton Survey Research associate found 23 million people were victims of ‘porch pirates’.
It’s a season of giving and taking. And as more and more people shop online, one of its attractions—packages delivered to the doorsteps, continue to fuel what law enforcement calls a growing problem.
It’s not a recent problem, though. A New York Times report says: “Porch pirates have darkened people’s doorsteps for years….the crime is on the rise along with the growth of shopping…”
Porch thieves know how many people are shopping online these days, and they know they have more opportunities to steal during this peak shopping season, police say.
The thieves also know consumers can’t always stay home from work to collect packages when they arrive, and that makes those packages an easy target. The more efficient thieves often follow UPS, FedEx, and other delivery trucks, scooping up packages as they are dropped off.
In Colerain Township, Ohio, the growing trend is becoming so problematic that the township allows residents to ship their packages to their local police stations, where they’ll be securely stored until they’re picked up.
Protecting packages, however, is a growing industry. Amazon Key program for prime members allows delivery people to use a key or key code for homes with digital locks and alarms so they can enter to deliver packages. One can also opt for a storage locker like Amazon Locker.
Similarly, a reinforced bag called the Porch Pirate Bag can store packages. The package is placed in the open bag and the delivery person seals and locks it and it remains in place — tethered to a door handle or gatepost.
FedEx and UPS have apps that allow users to reschedule and even reroute packages in real time. The UPs My Choice feature and FedEX Delivery manage allow customers to make sure someone is home when the package arrives, or even direct packages to certain locations, such as their workplace or a neighbor who is known to be home.
Package Guard is a Wi-Fi-connected sensor station for package drops. The delivery person leaves the packages — up to 100 pounds, with no limit on number of boxes — on top of the Package Guard and the sensor is set. The user is notified when a package has been left. If the package is picked up by a thief — instead of someone enabled to deactivate the sensor — a 100-decibel alarm sounds and a message is sent to the user.
United Parcel Service plans to deliver 750 million packages this season, up from 500 million five years ago.