10 Ways to Stop Porch Pirates from Stealing Your Packages
No one buys the perfect gift only to have it stolen away on their doorstep. These home security tips will stop porch pirates in their tracks.
The holiday season is upon us again, and while most people are worried about shopping for holiday gifts, what we should really be concerned about is porch pirates stealing them. Package theft is a bigger problem than ever, with 34% of Americans reporting that they’ve had a package stolen in 2023, according to a recent survey by Lombardo Homes.
Unfortunately, there are times when even the best home security systems are no match for a determined criminal. The uncertainty of holiday shipping further complicates this matter because we don’t always know when packages are going to arrive.
Whether you’re trying to figure out what to do if your Amazon package is stolen or you ordered from another retailer, prevention is key. So we’re sharing 10 tips for how to stop porch pirates from stealing your deliveries, for good.
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What is a porch pirate?
JT Hwang, CTO of home security company Vivint, defines a porch pirate as a thief “who target packages, stealing them from a person’s front porch or stoop.” In other words, it’s someone who takes unattended packages from someone’s home when no one is looking.
Is porch piracy a crime?
According to Collen Clark, attorney and founder of law firm Schmidt & Clark, porch piracy is a crime. “Although modified and stronger bills that outlaw porch pirating and stealing mail have recently been in effect, these thefts are often only charged as misdemeanors and frequently go uninvestigated.”
Clark recommends that homeowners put up a “visible and legible ‘No Trespassing’ sign.” The presence of this sign guarantees that the thief’s actions were intentional, making your claims stronger. If it’s coupled with a recorded video of the crime via your home security camera, you are [much more likely to get] favorable results if you take the matter into court.”
How to stop porch pirates
There are several ways you can make it more difficult for would-be thieves to get away with your stuff.
Opt into delivery alerts
You can opt into receiving free tracking alerts from most major retailers and shipping companies. “It’s an easy way to prevent theft, and 34% of Americans are already actively taking this preventative step [in 2021],” says Hwang.
You should be able to sign up for alerts after purchasing an item online or once you receive the initial tracking information. If you’re ordering groceries online, it’s probably easier to just pick them up.
Purchase an outdoor video camera
Home security expert Rob Gabriele says it’s essential to install an outdoor security camera. “Thieves don’t want to be seen, making security cameras a great first line of defense.”
If your budget allows, he advises buying a camera that has motion detection and a built-in siren. “A siren is an active deterrent that really sends a message.”
Install a doorbell camera
While thieves probably can’t see a video doorbell from the street, once they see it, it may still be an effective key to how to stop porch pirates. “The presence of a video camera at your door alone can scare away thieves,” says Hwang.
At the very least, having a doorbell camera will make you feel more safe and secure. Plus, in a 2022 survey by Statista, more than 50% of participants said they monitor their security camera regularly when they’re not home.
Install a sensor that will alert you when someone is on your porch
“Whether you are at home or not, if it alerts you, then you can switch on the camera and see who’s there,” says Robert D. Sollars, owner of Sollars Violence Prevention. “And if you have a microphone as well, [that will] scare them away. There are several of these devices on the market, and they allow you to answer the doorbell or alarm from anywhere with cell phone coverage.”
Even if you live in an apartment or condo, it’s always a good idea to have a security system.
Have packages shipped to your office
Porch pirates won’t be able to steal packages from your home if they never arrive. If you’re back to work in an office, Hwang says it’s a good idea to have your packages delivered there instead. “This ensures that your package will make it safely to either your desk or mailroom, alleviating the threat of porch pirates.”
Consider getting your packages delivered to a box
If you live alone and are rarely home, Sollars recommends getting a box at the nearest UPS Store, post office or similar business. Even if you don’t use a box year-round, it’s a wise idea for the holiday season. “Just don’t close it too early,” cautions Sollars. “Some items may not arrive until well after Christmas, so you’ll want to ensure nothing gets sent back by mistake.”
Leave a note for your delivery driver to hide your packages out of sight
Gabriele emphasizes that package thieves are opportunistic. “The longer a package sits around, the more vulnerable it becomes to theft,” he says. That’s why it’s smart to minimize the temptation: If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, arrange for a neighbor to pick up your packages, or add an online note for delivery people asking them to hide the package in a specified location (like over a fence or behind a bush).
Try to be home when your packages are being delivered
MoMo Productions/getty images
Whitney Joy Smith, president of Smith Investigation Agency, says it’s important to plan to be home if you’re expecting a package. “It might be challenging to pre-plan, but once you have the delivery date, be prepared to wait for the delivery email or text to minimize the time of your package being left unattended.”
Install a storm door for your porch area
If you aren’t home a lot but often have packages delivered, you may want to consider installing a storm door (or extra exterior door) for your porch area. “The storm door will allow the package to be less visible to the public, decreasing the chances of it being stolen. This step is optional, but it is still an excellent preventative measure,” says Smith.
Gather your packages immediately
Sergio Flores, chief product officer at home security company Canary, stresses the importance of removing your packages from your doorstep as soon as you receive them. “Once your package has been delivered, make sure to collect it immediately. It will take keeping a close eye on your cameras, but doing so will pay off,” he says.
What to do if you see a porch pirate
Now that you know how to stop porch pirates, here’s what to do if you see them in action: If you happen to witness a theft on your property or that of a neighbor, you have an obligation to contact the authorities, explains Clark. “Getting the perpetrator’s attention to get them to stop the act is also ideal, however this will usually lead to the culprit being spooked and getting away, so take note of the thief’s identity, or at least their clothing, and relay that information to local police.” If you’re quick with your smartphone, try snapping a photo of the thief in action.
About the experts
- JT Hwang is the chief technology officer of Vivint, a smart home company that creates customized security systems for homes across the U.S. and Canada.
- Collen Clark is an attorney and founder of Schmidt & Clark, a nationally recognized law firm based in Washington, DC.
- Rob Gabriele is a home security expert with more than 5,000 hours of industry research and nearly 1,500 guides and reviews on home security.
- Robert D. Sollars is the owner of Sollars Violence Prevention. He has worked in security for nearly 40 years and provides workshops and seminars on workplace violence prevention, school violence prevention and security officer training.
- Whitney Joy Smith is the president of Smith Investigation Agency, a private investigative agency that operates in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
- Sergio Flores is the chief product officer at Canary, a company that sells indoor and outdoor security cameras for the home.