Crime: Beware of Porch Piracy This Holiday Season
By December 19, 2022 One Comment 1639•
With less than a week before Christmas and over 50 percent of Americans shopping for gifts online this year (according to Statista.com), the problem of “porch piracy” – or package theft from porches or front steps – has become more acute and potentially disastrous for the holidays. What’s worse: a recent statistical analysis shows that Washington, D.C., is one of the worst cities in the nation for such season-spoiling thefts.
A few years back, a porch pirate at 3500 block of T Street NW was caught on a home security camera doing a dance “as if no one was watching” before robbing the home of delivered packages. Here’s an MPD video of the 2018 incident from WTOP News.
Using Google Adwords data, Getcircuit.com – a delivery driver assistance company – “compiled a list of locations with the most stolen and lost packages by each U.S. city, state, and courier.” Alarmingly, Washington, D.C., Vermont and North Dakota were ranked as the “places with the most searches per capita for lost packages.”
According to the data analysis, USPS and Amazon both saw a 15 percent “increase in searches for missing packages this year.” These two shippers “led the pack with the highest increase in searches for missing packages,” the report stated. In the past 5 years, “USPS had the most searches related to undelivered or stolen packages.” Ranked third, FedEx.
As the “holidays roll around,” the report says, “porch pirates have their eyes on your doorstep.”
The report’s “key takeaway”? “Washington, D.C., residents made the most searches for stolen and missing packages over the past five years.”
Using search history data over the past half decade, the study found Washington, D.C., “secured the top spot for the most lost packages, with about 670 Google searches for missing or stolen packages … per 100,000 residents.” This alarming figure was twice the number in “runner-up Vermont.”
And the problem in the nation’s capital is only getting worse. “With porch pirate season (aka the holidays) approaching,” the report said, “… Washington, D.C. had the unfortunate designation as the place with the highest increase in missing package searches this year, climbing by almost 24 percent in 2022.”
Recommendations from the Mayor and MPD
On Nov. 28, MPD Inspector Sylvan Altieri and MPD Commander Darnel Robinson told WUSA that the D.C. police are “on a mission to make sure your gifts don’t fall into the wrong hands” this holiday season. MPD is joining with Amazon in a pilot program to install delivery lockers at Sixth District police stations. “We’re the first law enforcement agency ever to do that. We have lockers at the Sixth District on Hays Street and Pennsylvania and 27th Street so people can pick their packages up 24/7,” Altieri said.
According to WUSA, Altieri urged residents to set up a home security camera system not only to deter package thefts but to track down porch pirates after a robbery. “D.C. currently has a rebate program for home security cameras,” WUSA reported. Find out more about the program on MPD’s website.
For Georgetown, MPD urges residents to use Second District Station at 3320 Idaho Ave. NW as a “Safe Exchange Zone” if receiving a package delivery from an individual.
“Residents of our city do not deserve to be victimized by people who want to commit crimes, whether they be violent crimes or property crimes,” said MPD Chief Robert Contee, according to ABC News. “Our department will continue to investigate these incidents that were committed by people who want to ruin the quality of life for our residents. We will follow every lead we can to ensure the victims get justice.”
In a Nov. 3 press conference in the 5th District where porch piracy has been a growing concern, Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “We want this to be a safe, fun holiday season for everyone. While MPD is out patrolling, we also want residents to work together to keep holiday packages out of the wrong hands. Use alternative pickup sites, work with neighbors to bring deliveries in, use our camera program, and if you see something, say something by reporting it to MPD.”
What Can You Do at Your Home To Protect Against Porch Piracy?
First, try to think like a package thief and ask what they look for to determine if your porch or front steps are a soft target. “Doorbell cameras, locked gates, and security system signs might mean the difference between a thief choosing whether or not it’s worth it to steal from you,” the GetCircuit.com report said. “You might also want to consider using alternate delivery locations, like your workplace or the home of a friend or family member who’s available to accept your packages in person for you.”
Be sure to stay in close communication with your neighbors so they can keep an eye out too. Other helpful options exist as well. “Pickup lockers…. are often available in public places. Drivers deliver your packages to the locker, secure the door, and then you retrieve your items when it’s convenient for you,” the report suggested.
Most important, however: try to minimize how long your delivered packages are sitting there for all the porch pirates to see. “No matter which option you choose, it’s just a matter of keeping packages from sitting by your front door unattended — because if a porch pirate sees an easy opportunity, they’ll take it.”
In addition to security enhancements such as having your packages delivered or using alternative delivery sites, it’s also important to track your packages carefully so that someone is at home to bring them inside immediately. “With so much precious cargo arriving at your door this holiday season, a watchful eye not only ensures it’s protected from thieves — it also allows time for replacements and refunds in the event of a lost package,” the report concluded.