Are Your Packages Secure from ‘Porch Pirates’?

Authorities-imposed stay-at-home orders and lockdowns through the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a increase in on-line gross sales. According to one study, deliveries of merchandise bought by way of the Web or by phone rose 74 p.c in 2020.

They’ve additionally proved to be a bonanza for an rising class of Web-era thieves who seize packages left on doorsteps when the client isn’t at residence, or in any other case unable to retrieve them instantly.

Whereas early research point out that some types of crime have dramatically decreased through the pandemic, the truth that thousands and thousands of People at the moment are ordering every little thing from meals to video video games, clothes and cosmetics from residence has supplied increased opportunities for “porch piracy.”  

One recent U.S. survey involving 1,000 respondents discovered almost one in 5 skilled the theft of an merchandise ordered for supply since final March, when the onset of coronavirus compelled most People to remain at residence.

The issue stays understudied by researchers, making its influence nonetheless arduous to gauge―and equally arduous to develop methods to handle it.

Our analysis group at Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Criminal Justice Administration has got down to change this.

After an preliminary study analyzing how porch pirates function and figuring out methods to stop theft, we sought to outline package deal theft, inform readers in regards to the crime, and study on-line retail customers’ concern of being victimized.

The latest examine in January 2021, Assessing the Fear of Package Theft, printed within the American Journal of Felony Justice, launched what we hope can be an ongoing effort to determine, perceive and reply to this rising crime.

We started by defining package deal theft as:

Taking possession of a package deal or its contents, outdoors of a residence or enterprise, the place it has been commercially delivered or has been left for business pick-up, with intent to deprive the rightful proprietor of the contents.

Subsequent, a survey of 562 respondents in 49 states revealed that almost one quarter (23.eight p.c) had skilled package deal theft.

Extrapolating from that determine, if discovered to be consultant, would make package deal theft now probably the most widespread crimes within the U.S.

In distinction, the Federal Bureau of Investigations Uniform Crime Experiences (UCR) in 2019 discovered that round 2 p.c of the inhabitants skilled a package deal theft. The distinction displays the truth that UCR statistics characterize crimes reported to police businesses, which in flip ship them to the FBI. However not all crimes―notably nonviolent crime―are reported by victims to police.

The almost 24 p.c determine revealed in our survey could seem excessive. However different research discovered even increased charges. A 2020 survey of 2,000 online consumers by the market analysis firm C+R discovered a charge of 36 p.c. A study by Value Penguin discovered that 43 p.c of survey respondents had been victims of porch piracy.

The very nature of this crime makes such giant frequencies plausible.  The offense will be dedicated with little effort, no experience required, and minimal danger of detection. Moreover, the seemingly infinite assets of on-line retailers similar to Amazon may assist rationalize the conduct for thieves who could really feel that their victims won’t be unduly harmed since big on-line retailers typically exchange the lacking merchandise, no questions requested.

Within the thoughts of the offender, “that’s what insurance coverage is for.”

Variables similar to gender, residential location and prior victimization influence the concern of package deal theft considerably.  Girls have been extra afraid of package deal theft than males.  Worry was better in city and suburban communities than in rural communities.  In fact, those that had packages stolen previously have been extra petrified of it occurring once more.

One other noteworthy facet of our analysis appears at how the rise in package deal theft has impacted the conduct of customers.

Worry-of-crime analysis has sometimes centered on the concern of violent crime.  The Tennessee examine broadened the information base about concern of crime by analyzing concern of a uniquely particular crime utilizing an index measuring behavioral, cognitive and affective impacts.

Our findings prompt that the concern of package deal theft led to particular risk-mitigation and risk-avoidance behaviors. Shoppers with better concern have been extra prone to take preventive measures similar to requiring signatures when delivering packages, putting in safety cameras, or utilizing enclosed supply areas similar to PO containers.

They have been additionally extra possible to make use of invasive choices, similar to Amazon Key, that enable supply personnel to enter your private home, or place packages within the trunk of your automobile.

The key limitation to many of those preventive efforts was price.  The willingness to make use of such packages was typically mitigated by monetary price on the patron’s half, in addition to privateness considerations.

There’s much more we have to find out about this crime, particularly since―whilst some lockdown and quarantine insurance policies have eased—there are indications that on-line buying is remodeling client conduct within the U.S. and lots of different international locations.

Except retailers, supply providers and police devise higher methods to comprise it, porch piracy will stay a rising supply of each anxiousness and financial stress in years to come back.

NOTE: For extra analysis, information tales, and practitioner stories on this subject, please go to

Joshua Harms, Ph.D., and Ben Stickle, Ph.D.,are affiliate professors of Felony Justice Administration at Center Tennessee State College.