During the holidays, packages start to stack up at doorsteps creating the perfect opportunity for thieves, or now commonly known as “porch pirates.”
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” said Stephanie Williams, spokeswoman for the James City County Police Department. “They’re not being choosy. They see it and they’ll grab it.”
Williams said while there aren’t necessarily a lot of reports of packages stolen from front doors and porches, the frequency does go up during the holiday season. However, she said after years of this being an issue in general, package delivery companies have developed ways to try and prevent this type of crime.
Companies like Amazon have developed systems such as their locker program where packages are delivered to self-service kiosks, according to the Amazon website. In addition, Williams said typically companies can work with customers to ensure packages are delivered at a time when the customer is home.
Williams also suggested customers have their packages delivered to safer locations such as work or to a neighbor they know will be home. This helps ensure the packages are getting into the hands of the right person sooner as opposed to sitting on a doorstep for hours.
There isn’t necessarily a difference in package safety between apartment complexes and homes, Williams said. With apartment buildings, typically there are areas that residents can request to have their packages delivered.
“Obviously, someone who is stealing packages will be less cautious if it’s a more rural area without a lot of neighbors,” Williams said. “But that’s not to say it isn’t happening in the neighborhoods too because it’s a crime of opportunity.”
Shawn Kekoa-Dearhart, master deputy with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, suggested installing cameras outside of the home. Companies like Ring provide a surveillance system that allows customers to watch their property and creates a two-way communication device so residents can speak to the delivery person.
“We see now that there are so many video surveillance systems at homes,” Williams said. “We see videos where people walk up and look like they’re going to steal a package. But it’s hard to see if they were or not and the camera system prevented them from stealing or if we are just able to capture it more now.”
Customers can also arrange items outside their door for delivery people to place packages into, such as fake planters or storage boxes. Before an item is delivered, customers can talk to their delivery person and ask for the packages to be hidden in the items.
Protecting them on the doorstep is just the first step of the process. Once packages are wrapped and placed under the tree, they can still be vulnerable to criminals.
“We would recommend that you not have large gifts or a pile of gifts visible through a window,” Williams said. “Keep blinds and curtains closed and be aware of what can be seen through the front door.”
Kekoa-Dearhart added that homeowners should also be mindful to keep their windows and doors locked at all times.
“It’s all a crime of opportunity,” Williams reiterated. “If they see it, they’ll take it.”