‘Tis the Season for Package Thieves- Here are Some Tips to Prevent Theft

These tips can help you prevent porch pirates from stealing the packages right from your doorstep this holiday season.It’s a problem year-round –  crooks patrolling our neighborhoods looking for packages that have been left in the front of our homes. However, the deluge of packages delivered during the holiday season provides these “Porch Pirates” more incentives. They often can be found following the delivery vehicles as they move through our neighborhoods – picking up the packages as quickly as the driver deposits them.

Porch pirates are young and old, of every race and gender. They work solo and in tandem, stealing everything from wedding veils to dry-erase markers. FedEx and UPS delivered more than 1 billion packages between Black Friday and Christmas Day in 2016. Moreover, according to August Home’s survey, 70% of all homeowners expect to receive a package over the holiday season. There’s no denying that the holiday season brings a massive influx in the number of deliveries worldwide.

Here are a few things that you can do to reduce the possibility that your packages are intercepted by thieves.

  • USPS Notifications – The USPS offers “Informed Delivery” that lets you preview digital images of some packages the morning they’re supposed to arrive and lets you leave messages for your letter carrier about where you want them left. Customers who know they won’t be home when their package is delivered can try USPS Package Intercept, a process that lets you redirect a domestic shipment that hasn’t been delivered, or released for delivery, for a fee.
  • Federal Express Notifications – Package recipients can set some basic times for delivery and delivery notifications through their website. FedEx offers “Delivery Manager” that lets you redirect packages to a drop-off location, such as a nearby drugstore.
  • United Parcel Service (UPS) – Package recipients can set notifications when the package has been delivered. UPS has “My Choice” that provides delivery options. Use UPS access points, to pick up your packages at a convenient neighborhood location.
  • Have the package delivered to your workplace – The easiest way to prevent the package from being stolen is to have it delivered to your business. This should especially be done with higher value items that you’ve ordered such as cameras and video games.
  • Require Delivery Signatures – Most shipping companies offer this service, and it often comes standard on more expensive purchases. This is an easy way to verify that packages are handed off directly to someone in your home without hanging out on your front porch to tempt those porch pirates. The only downside is that this can require you to be home to sign for packages.
  • Have the packages delivered to your car. If it is more convenient, have your package delivered to your car. The car needs to be at the correct address and be equipped with Amazon’s Key in-Car Delivery. (Note: You must make the purchase from Amazon.)
  • Send the packages to a friend. If you have friends or family who you know will be home, just use their address.
  • Neighborhood package watch. It’s very important for consumers to be watchful for criminals canvassing neighborhoods looking for packages left on doorsteps. Ask your neighbors to watch for deliveries and agree to secure each other’s packages. Please remember to report suspicious behavior to local law enforcement.
  • Consider Using “Secure Lockers” – Many on-line retailers offer “secure lockers” where packages are stored to await for you to arrive. Within our area, Amazon has several locker locations.
  • Doorman , which will pick up packages and re-deliver them during a scheduled window
  • Package Guard , a service that uses a weighted scale to keep track of packages and sounds an alarm if they are removed unexpectedly
  • Completely customize your delivery options with TaskRabbit – If you don’t want to brave the mall, someone else can always do it for you. TaskRabbit can pick up items from just about anywhere and bring them straight to you.
  • Install Security Cameras or a Doorbell Camera – Installing a security camera or a hybrid doorbell camera is also a great, albeit reactive, way to deal with pesky porch pirates. As Brick & Thistle mentions, a video security camera makes it likely that you’ll have footage that can be given to law enforcement to identify a suspect.  One neighbor with a camera system in the neighborhood can significantly improve the chances of finding the suspect.
  • Use smart locks to bring the package inside – Combine a doorbell camera with a smart lock for extra protection. If you see a delivery driver from the doorbell camera feed, you can unlock the smart lock on your front door via your smart home app, allowing your delivery driver to place your packages directly inside your home. You can also give the driver a temporary smart lock access code, then change it for added security once the package is delivered.
  • Smart garage controls keep your packages safe – If you’re not comfortable unlocking your front door for the delivery, you can also use smart garage door controls to secure your package. With a garage door controller connected to your smart home, you can use your panel or smart home app to open your garage for the delivery driver to leave the package in your garage. Then close the garage once the driver has made the delivery.
  • Security signs. Post a sign in your yard informing the poacher that your home is under video surveillance or has security alarms.
  • Keep your property well lit. Sometimes those porch pirates will wait until dark before they do the evil deeds. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Just keep your sidewalk and porch nice and bright.
  • Make it look like you are home. This is good common sense, regardless of whether or not you’re expecting a package. Lights going on and off inside a home will help keep burglars from not only stealing what’s sitting on your porch, but also from breaking into your home. The myTouchSmart system is an inexpensive, easy-to-operate system.
  • Insure your packages – If you’re ordering a high-value item online, such as a new iPhone or tablet, pay a few extra bucks to insure its delivery. You can usually do this either with the vendor or through the postal service delivering the package.
  • Bonus:  If theses suggestions listed above don’t help thwart porch pirates from ruining your holiday, there is one sure way to guarantee your packages won’t be stolen off your porch. Get out, go to the store to enjoy some traditional holiday shopping and buy the gift in person!

What to do if your package doesn’t show up

So you got an alert saying your package was delivered but it’s nowhere to be found. You can file a police report — and then also do this:

  • Check The Tracking Information – While often the tracking information for a missing shipment will just say “delivered,” sometimes it will provide more information – for example, “delivered to back porch” – that may help you locate your lost item. It may even show that a neighbor signed for the package in your absence – letting you know from whom to pick it up.
  • Check With Neighbors – Some delivery drivers will choose to leave your package with a neighbor if they feel like it’s a more secure option. Some people will even go out of their way to store their neighbors’ packages to keep them safe. And of course, sometimes your packages are just delivered to the wrong address.
  • If it was delivered by the USPS, you can fill out a Missing Mail Search Request. The main drawback with this, though, is you have to wait seven business days after the package was supposed to arrive before you can take advantage of this option.
  • If it was delivered by UPS, the company encourages you to contact the sender to start a claim, because UPS says package senders have the most essential claim documents, like invoices, receipts, etc.
  • It if was delivered by FedEx, there’s an online form to fill out a claim for a missing package.
  • It if was delivered by DHL, there’s an online form to fill out a claim for a missing package.
  • Amazon’s “Where’s My Stuff?” page offers lots of helpful tips on what to do if your package ends up missing.
  • Check your Credit Cards for Purchase ProtectionMany credit cards offer purchase protection that will reimburse you for stolen items, provided the item was purchased entirely with that credit card, and the card issuer is alerted within a specified timeframe. Check your credit card provider’s website to check for this coverage and to file a claim. Unfortunately, some credit card companies exclude coverage for high-value items (typically worth over $500 or $1000), and some card issuers may require you to file a police report before they’ll offer a refund. Also, credit card purchase protection is often secondary coverage, meaning it kicks in only after primary coverage, such as renters insurance, has been applied.
  • Dispute Charges – If you cannot get the package, a replacement, or a refund via the seller or carrier, contact the credit card company on whose card you paid for the purchase, and dispute the charges. If the item was a gift ask the sender to do so.
  • Reach out to your local police department to notify them of the theft.

Report Suspicious Behavior

If you see a suspicious vehicle in your neighborhood or see someone take a package from your neighbor’s home, please give our dispatch center a call immediately. Getting a good description of the suspect(s) and their vehicle to officers quickly could save the day for a neighbor.

Emergency 911
Oakley Dispatch (Non-Emergency) (925) 625-8060
Oakley Police Department Office (925) 625-8855
Oakley Tip Email Line OPD@ci.oakley.ca.us

About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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