thief stealing packages from porch

Porch Piracy to Surge During Record Online Shopping This Holiday Season

States Most and Least at Risk for Package Theft and How to Prevent It

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A record $207 billion is projected to be spent by online shoppers this holiday season, our second with COVID-19 keeping many people away from stores. More online shopping correlates to more packages being delivered.

Last year, a record 20 billion parcels were shipped to U.S. addresses. Multiple studies found there was an increase in porch pirates swiping delivered packages from porches, doorsteps, and mailrooms in apartment buildings.

A C+R Research survey found that the percentage of Americans who have personally had a delivered item stolen rose by nearly 20 percent between 2019 and 2020, and more than 60 percent of Americans know someone who has had a package swiped.

With ecommerce expected to peak this November and December, chances are good that package theft will keep rising as well.

Another factor likely to make matters worse in the final months of 2021 are issues with the global supply chain. Supply chain disruptions, manufacturing delays, and delivery hiccups are all expected to add to the time it will take for online purchases to end up on shoppers’ doorsteps. Consumers may think their product is stuck at a port, when in fact, it may have already been delivered and stolen.

We wanted to understand the scope of this problem, including which states’ residents are at the highest risk of falling victim to porch pirates, and share tips for keeping deliveries safe.

Here are a few of our key findings:

  • Larceny-theft, including package theft, is the No. 1 most reported U.S. crime with 2.4 million reported in 2020.
  • The District of Columbia is most at-risk for package theft followed by Louisiana and South Carolina. Massachusetts and Idaho are the least.
  • Fourteen states have passed or are considering laws enhancing penalties for porch piracy or making it a separate crime category with stiffer penalties.

What Is Porch Piracy?

While most of us have heard of porch piracy, it is not a legal term. In fact, in many states there are no separate laws or ordinances regarding the theft of shipped parcels left on a porch. It is currently legally classified as larceny-theft.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies classify larceny-theft as a property crime, or the taking of someone else’s property without permission. It differs from burglary, which requires a criminal to unlawfully enter a building or structure. But snatching a newly delivered package from a porch, stoop or patio need not involve entering a structure at all, which is why porch piracy lives in a bit of a gray area (more on what States are doing about it later).

Larceny-theft is the most commonly reported crime in the U.S., and according to the FBI an estimated 2.4 million were reported in 2020. That equates to a population-adjusted rate of just under 1,400 per 100,000 people. And while rates have varied from year-to-year, this type of theft is the most common crime among those reported by the FBI.

In fact, the rate of larceny-theft is higher than the rate of all other crime categories combined, including ones like auto theft and violent crimes that gain far more media attention.

U.S. Crime Rate - Crimes per 100,000 people in 2020

U.S. Crimes per 100,000 people

Larceny-theft1,398
Burglary314
Aggravated assault280
Motor vehicle theft246
Robbery74
Rape38
Arson13
Murder & manslaughter7

This type of theft tends to be costly, particularly given how often it occurs. In fact, almost half of all larceny-theft incidents involve items or cash valuing more than $200.

Average loss per larceny-theft

Average loss per larceny-theft

Over $20047%
$50 to $20021%
Under $5031%

While it’s important to note that this calculation includes larceny-thefts that can’t be categorized as porch piracy, many victims of package theft never get their money back. In fact, only 30 percent of package theft victims in this survey said they got their money back, equating to an average loss of just over $100.

States Most and Least at Risk for Package Theft

Larceny-theft is the most common crime in the U.S., and the same is true in every state.

Because porch piracy or package theft does not yet have its own crime category on the federal level, it falls under the larceny-theft banner. The best way to understand which states are the most and least at-risk for package theft is to see how common larceny-crime is in every state.

Some states are taking porch piracy more seriously than others. Currently, 14 states have passed or are considering laws that would establish added penalties for package thieves and/or are creating a new crime category specifically covering these incidents.

Notably, 10 of those 14 states have above-average rates of larceny-theft, including South Carolina, which ranks third overall. Lawmakers there are considering a bill that would make package theft a felony and establish minimum jail time.

In Texas, porch piracy is a felony that includes a maximum 10-year prison sentence for people convicted of nabbing deliveries from more than 30 addresses, while in California, Michigan, and Oklahoma, porch piracy is a misdemeanor even for first-time offenders.

 

Larceny-theft rate by state and porch piracy laws adopted or being actively considered

States by Larceny-theft rate

District of Columbia3,775
Louisiana2,352
South Carolina2,116
Hawaii2,093
Alaska2,066
Oregon2,022
Arkansas2,013
New Mexico1,989
Tennessee1,934
Washington1,908
Alabama1,886
Missouri1,865
Colorado1,858
Oklahoma1,836
Arizona1,797
Delaware1,783
Georgia1,780
Texas1,731
Kansas1,722
Montana1,701
Utah1,682
Florida1,669
North Carolina1,666
Minnesota1,598
California1,586
Mississippi1,556
Nebraska1,536
Ohio1,520
Maryland1,485
Nevada1,453
Indiana1,443
Illinois1,427
North Dakota1,400
Virginia1,360
Kentucky1,324
South Dakota1,273
Wyoming1,207
Iowa1,200
Rhode Island1,188
Vermont1,172
New York1,166
Wisconsin1,127
Pennsylvania1,124
Michigan1,121
West Virginia1,120
Connecticut1,079
New Jersey1,035
New Hampshire1,017
Maine1,017
Idaho912
Massachusetts912

The District of Columbia has the nation’s highest larceny-theft rate, according to the FBI, which is not surprising given its high population density. Louisiana and South Carolina are second and third respectively, and three of the 10 states with the highest larceny-theft rates have also passed or are considering porch piracy laws (South Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee).

5 Tips to Avoid Package Theft This Holiday Season

  1. Enable Tracking and Text Alerts: Most carriers, including Amazon, UPS, and FedEx, will text you when your package has been delivered. Make sure to turn this feature on and collect your packages as soon as possible.
  2. Install Home Security Cameras: Security cameras serve as a deterrent and have successfully identified porch pirates in the act. Consider smart security cameras with AI technology that can detect unusual activity including if a package goes missing. If you have multiple locations around the home where couriers drop off packages, then a complete security system would be a prudent investment.
  3. Invest in a Porch Lockbox: Companies now manufacture lockboxes designed specifically to receive packages. The lockbox will have a code that you provide to the delivery service so they can open it and drop your package off securely.
  4. Control Shipping Location: If you know you will not be home to accept the package, you can have it shipped to work, to an Amazon Locker or pick it up in-store.
  5. Ask for nondescript packaging: A package that says Tiffany & Co is likely to pique the interest of any criminal. Ask the merchant if they can ship using a nondescript box.

Conclusion

The rise of online shopping, coupled with entering our second holiday season during the pandemic, it is likely that package theft will be on the rise. This type of crime is continuing to grow, and it is leading to harsher legal penalties in some states. Until there is a better government action plan, individuals can take steps mentioned above to mitigate risk. If we are all a little more vigilant, we can avoid porch pirates and make it a great holiday season to remember.

Ray Ansari
is an NYU-educated computer scientist, chemist and the Founder and CEO of CCTV Camera World.

 

Connect with Ray via: LinkedIn