As more people than ever seem to be shopping online this holiday season and having packages sent to their front doors, police are seeing a rise in “porch piracy.” This brazen crop of thieves cruises through residential neighborhoods, often in broad daylight, snatching up Amazon deliveries and others off porches.
Vanessa Gonzalez of Raleigh knows all too well what it feels like to be targeted by such pirates. This fall, she ordered new cookware to prepare her Thanksgiving dinner from the Sam’s Club website. But the pots never arrived.
Thieves swiped the delivery from the front of her townhouse in the Hedingham community in northeast Raleigh. Gonzalez, a 34-year-old mother who moved to Raleigh from Colorado last year, didn’t call police. Instead, she contacted Sam’s Club officials, who reshipped the items free of charge.
A few weeks later, Gonzalez was doing some holiday shopping online when she found “cute” travel jackets from Baubax that she decided to order for herself, her boyfriend and others.
Baubax told her the jackets would take four to five days to arrive and that she would get an immediate message as soon as the package was delivered to her home.
“I got home, no package,” Gonzalez said.
After the previous experience with the cooking pots, Gonzalez decided to call the police this time.
“I wanted people to be aware, and I wanted the police to know so that they could watch the neighborhood,” she said.
InsuranceQuotes.com, an online company that enables consumers to compare insurance rates online, reported Wednesday that about 25.9 million Americans – that’s about 8 percent of the population – have had a holiday package delivery stolen from their front porch or doorstep. That’s an increase from the 23.5 million porch thefts reported in a 2015 survey by the online company.
And this holiday season,Americans plan to spend 51 percent of their holiday shopping budget online, said international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte.
The same week Gonzalez discovered that porch pirates had taken her holiday jackets, she found out her neighbors also had been victimized and were talking about the thefts on their Facebook and Nextdoor community pages. One even posted footage of a thief swiping items from their porch.
Across the Triangle, the Chapel Hill Police Department reported about a dozen thefts from the porches and mailboxes of residents.
Jerra Collins, 44, had packages taken from outside her Chapel Hill apartment during the Christmas season last year, police reported.
“Someone actually stole laptops I had purchased for Christmas. The packages were left at my door,” Collins told The News & Observer.
Wake Forest also is receiving reports of porch pirates this year.
“Police say thieves often follow courier trucks and immediately steal items after they are dropped off, so it’s important not to let packages sit around,” said Bill Crabtree, a Wake Forest town spokesman.
Gonzalez intends to show up for her community’s upcoming meeting with a police officer who will discuss how to thwart such thievery.
“It’s evident to me that someone is watching the area and stealing packages,” she said.
Avoid being a victim
By taking the following precautions, people can help avoid porch piracy and other thefts during the holiday season:
▪ Make sure your home is well lit. Turn on outside lights, spotlights, motions lights, etc. Leave several lights on timers while you are away to give your home that lived-in look.
▪ Keep all shrubbery trimmed. Do not allow shrubbery to conceal windows or doors.
▪ Remove anything a burglar could climb up on to gain entry or use to knock out a window or door; items such as ladders, tools, tables and chairs.
▪ Don’t leave garage roll-down doors open, even while you are home or while you are doing yard work.
▪ Use a deadbolt lock to secure your doors. A double cylinder lock, which requires a key on both sides to unlock, should be used if glass is near the lock.
▪ If you are going away, contact a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up your mail, newspapers and other delivered items.
▪ Try not to leave gifts in open view. This is an invitation to burglars.
▪ Don’t advertise new gifts or purchases. Break up cartons before leaving them at the curb or dispose of them another way the morning of trash pickup.
▪ Don’t forget to engrave new gifts or purchases with your driver’s license number.
▪ Don’t open your door to strangers. Be wary of solicitors and salespersons. If a stranger asks to use your telephone, tell them to stay outside, lock the door behind you and make the call for them. Never let a stranger inside your home.
▪ Don’t give any information about yourself or your neighbor to a stranger.
Source: Wake Forest Police Department