NORTH COUNTY — It’s the season of giving, and in some cases taking. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, people took to online shopping this year especially with free shipping to complete their purchases. Porches and stoops are filling with boxes from major retailers, like Amazon, Target or Walmart, are becoming easy targets for thieves also known as “porch pirates,” who are following your carriers every move and picking up packages along the way.
According to a study done by InsuranceQuotes in 2017, 8 percent of Americans or about 25.9 million people have had a holiday package delivery stolen from a front porch or doorstep. This is up from 23.5 million uncovered in their 2015 survey.
Well, how do you stop them?
Here are some tips on how to deter these opportunistic thieves:
“Being diligent with knowing what your shipping times are, typically UPS delivers about the same time every day to certain residences. Check your packages delivery date make sure they are not sitting out there for an extended period of time, would be good starters,” said Commander Caleb Davis with the Paso Robles Police Department.
If mail or smaller packages are being stolen from your mailbox there is a service provided by the United States Postal Service called Informed Delivery that will send you via email — scans of your incoming mail and advise you of your packages. Visit https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action to sign up. UPS and FedEx also offer similar programs.
Or you could just get to know your neighbors both at home and work.
“Have a good relationship with your neighbors, maybe you may have them retrieve a package for you when you are not going to be home. If you are going to be gone for an extended period of time to stop deliveries for that time,” added Davis.
You can have a valuable packaged ship to your work to ensure one of your officemates picks it up, but be sure to clear this with your office manager first so that the mailroom isn’t clogged with massive packages.
One community member in Atascadero decided to help her town. Karen McNamara, owner of the Hope Chest Emporium on 5800 El Camino Real, saw posts on social media about the porch pirates in Santa Maria and another business there offering to help by holding packages for the community.
“I thought, oh gosh someone should do that in Atascadero,” said McNamara, who realized she’s open 7-days a week. “I could probably that. I like to do the community stuff.
“What really made me think is that people send gifts that are mementos — that are personally made gifts, and those are irreplaceable, and yet to the porch pirates they are worthless to them,” she said.
McNamara is hoping that by helping she can keep some of those things from being thrown away and lost.
“They are looking for things to sell and not someone’s memory book. Those personal items are irreplaceable.”
McNamara was busy clearing shelves to house community member’s packages in the back of her shop and creating a system, where people have to show their ID to pick up their packages. When asked what else stirred her to take action, she said, “To do something for the community this year.” She also added, “I bet I will meet some wonderful people.”
In case your package does go missing from your home, Davis recommends to check with your carrier to see if it was indeed delivered and proceed with any advice they have. Many of the retailers will have you report the theft so that you can get your item returned. Definitely contact the police department if you have any information that may be useful to follow up on the case, Davis said.
“If you happened to have surveillance video, that is always the most helpful thing for us,” said Davis.
Camera systems such as the Ring or the Nest are popular choices for homes and many of the porch pirates have been featured on social media or even on the news caught in the act or attempting to take a package. As Davis said video surveillance is the most useful for local police to use in an investigation.
If you want a physical deterrent, a porch box or rip-proof container is a good choice and there are several available on the market. A new product, the BoxLock is a smart padlock that uses wifi and lets major carriers — UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Amazon drivers scan your package, which lets the lock open and they place it in your container and lock it. It will then notify you that your package has been delivered. You can also unlock it remotely using an app and a barcode if you wanted a friend or family member to gain access to it.
Packages aren’t the only things at risk from thieves. According to the InsuranceQuotes survey, 22.6 million Americans about 7 percent also had holiday decorations stolen or vandalized.
Be proactive, perhaps ask Santa for a security system this Christmas or just watch out for your fellow neighbors.