Package theft is a huge problem around the holidays.
It's so huge that police in New Jersey have teamed up with Amazon to deliver “fake” packages with real GPS transponders. They're doing it areas with a lot of package theft and it's designed to catch “porch pirates.”
Porch pirates are thieves who steal packages off porches (clever name, right?).
It's a common problem because it's such an easy theft. They drive around a neighborhood looking for packages. If they see any, they just walk up, take them, and leave. Package theft is such a huge problem around the holidays because the number of shipped packages goes up astronomically.
And this happens a lot during the day because people are at work. A nearby neighborhood's Facebook group is flooded with these theft complaints with residents wondering what they can do.
Fortunately, ther are steps you can take to help limit the damage:
Get Delivery Notifications
Track your packages every step of the way so you'll know when the package will get there.
If it's important, you may want to stay home or work from home that day to make sure you don't miss it.
You don't want it sitting on your porch for a few days, begging thieves to take it!
Use Amazon Lockers
If you have an Amazon Locker near you (see if you do), get your packages delivered to a secure locker.
To use Amazon Locker, just add a locker to your address book and have your packages sent to that locker address. When the package is delivered, they will send you a unique 6-digit code you use to unlock it. It's free. Take your package and go!
There are limitations for size and weight due to the locker size, but most items work. Our closest one happens to be in a nearby Whole Foods.
Install a Ring Doorbell
This is arguably one of the pricier solutions but for a hundred bucks, you can install a Ring Wi-Fi enabled Video Doorbell. The Ring records video whenever it detects motion and doesn't need existing wires for installation. You can also see what it sees in real time whenever you want.
Just this past Halloween, one of our neighbors was out Trick Or Treating with us and left a bowl of candy on his porch with the classically ignored “just take one” note. In watching some of the video, one of the kids noticed the Ring doorbell and said to his friends “Hey guys, they have a Ring, just take one.” If it deters high school kids, it stands a chance of deterring thieves.
There's also a slightly pricier version 2.0 that offers 1080p HD video (vs. the 720p HD of the version 1) and a rechargeable battery pack.
Install Security Cameras
One step up from a Ring Doorbell is an actual home security system that includes high profile security cameras. Much of the value in security cameras is in deterrence, so make sure the cameras are prominently displayed for any potential thieves to see.
You'll want one that has a high-resolution video that records, to the cloud or locally, based on motion. Try to find one with decent night vision, since the sun sets relatively early in the day and your packages may be delivered in that darker period. The Arlo family of wireless cameras gets pretty good ratings.
Or, you could just install some dummy security cameras. 🙂
Deliver Packages to Work
If you work in an office, consider getting your packages delivered to you at work. Even if you don't work in an office but in a different type of environment, it might still be OK to get it delivered. Check with the powers that be to make sure.
Now, if you work in a larger office, speak with the office manager (or someone who plays that role) to ensure that this won't cause undue hardship. At some large corporations, the mail office can be a very chaotic and high volume so it will take time for a personal package to make it through the system.
Also, getting personal packages may be against company policy or cause someone to do a lot more work, especially around the holidays, so triple check it's OK. So before you start sending everything to your desk or work location, make sure it's acceptable.
Finally, deliveries may occur after business hours so keep an eye out on those notifications.
Deliver to UPS Store
If you can't get packages delivered at work, the next best option is to use a mailbox service like UPS
Hold Mail & Packages
If you go away during the holidays, make sure you put a hold on your mail and any packages. This should include newspaper delivery too. Thieves love seeing old newspapers on the driveway because it means the homeowner is probably not home.
To stop your mail or packages, here are the instructions from the major carriers:
Require Delivery Signature
This may not be as convenient but requiring your signature on delivery ensures it makes it to you or, at least, someone in your household. If someone is there, it means it's getting put in the house and not left on the porch.
Specify a Special Location
Some delivery services will let you specify where you want them to leave the package. You can identify a location other than your porch or outside your front door.
With many services, simply enter in the tracking number and there will be instructions on how to specify a delivery location. You may be required to log into your account (set one up if you need to) so that they can confirm your identity.
Doorman is a paid service that can manage your deliveries. You have your packages sent to them and they deliver them to you in 1-hour windows any day of the week. I believe they got their start in the commercial space but have rolled out a personal service.
This is also a great option if you live in a place where packages can't be left anywhere, such as an apartment complex. You can buy a package, starting at $19/month for 4 visits and 15 packages, or pay a la carte at $5 per visit and $2 per package. It's not cheap but it could prevent theft.
Overengineer a Trap
Or you can do this:
With a few precautions, you can prevent thieves from turning your porch into their own Christmas tree!