'Porch Pirates' Steal Holiday Packages Off Doorsteps As more people shop online, law enforcement say they're receiving more reports of package theft. A survey found nearly 20 percent of homeowners reported a package stolen in the past year.
NPR logo 'Porch Pirates' Steal Holiday Packages Off Doorsteps

'Porch Pirates' Steal Holiday Packages Off Doorsteps

Boxes move along a conveyor belt at an Amazon fulfillment center in California. As more consumers shop online, law enforcement says they're receiving more reports of package theft, especially during the holidays. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Boxes move along a conveyor belt at an Amazon fulfillment center in California. As more consumers shop online, law enforcement says they're receiving more reports of package theft, especially during the holidays.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An episode of the Netflix anthology series Easy follows a group of neighbors who band together to stop a baseball-capped thief from stealing packages right off their doorsteps.

The episode examines the cultural implications of a world altered by the internet, online shopping and the dominance of Amazon Prime.

"It's not about the package itself or the contents of the package," says one woman in the TV series. "We're a community; there are children here. I mean, it starts with packages, who knows? I just feel unsafe."

But this isn't just fodder for a television comedy poking fun at the sensitivities of wealthy suburbanites. Law enforcement agencies say they're receiving more reports of package theft as more consumers shop online, especially during the holidays, says Anthony Giorgianni of Consumer Reports.

A survey by the California-based home security company Ring found nearly 20 percent of homeowners reported having a package stolen in the past year, losing an average of $140.

"We don't know if it's really on the rise," Giorgianni tells Here & Now's Lisa Mullins, "but it is a big problem, particularly around the holidays, when you get these porch pirates patrolling, following delivery trucks and stealing all those gifts that have been left at people's doors."

Two teenagers were arrested in Lincoln, Neb., earlier this month after the police discovered more than 30 packages shoved into a car. In the Boston area, law enforcement have begun placing "bait" packages equipped with a tracking device in order to catch thieves.

The holiday season is prime time for so-called porch pirates. According to The New York Times, UPS expects to deliver 750 million packages this season, which is 250 million more than the company delivered five years ago.

UPS spokesman Steve Gaut told The New York Times that increased public concern surrounding theft is because of "the greater use and affordability of home surveillance technology and the pervasiveness of social media and related user-generated social content." He said UPS doesn't think the problem is on the rise, but many thefts are never reported.

Giorgianni says the best way to prevent theft is to require a signature upon delivery of a package or instruct the shipping company to deliver it to their local affiliate or to an office instead of your home.

Consumers can also have packages dropped off at a lockbox or use a service such as Amazon Key, which allows delivery drivers to enter a home when no one is there. The $200 set includes a smartlock and indoor security camera, so people feel assured they'll get a package without having their valuables stolen.

Giorgianni also suggests installing security cameras, but he says to keep them visible to deter would-be thieves. Frustrated residents have taken to YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites to share footage.

"For the best for results, you want the deterrent effect, and that means keep the security camera visible, so that the would-be thief sees it and perhaps, won't steal the package to begin with," he says.

So what should you do after a package is already stolen?

"If it's left at your front door and it disappears, some retailers — if you tell them that that thing was stolen — they'll just reship it," Giorgianni says. He adds that if the seller refuses to reship the item, consumers can file a claim with the credit card or homeowner's insurance company to cover the cost.