It’s a cute term, but there is nothing cute about massive retail theft that strikes up to 15% of all first-time delivery attempts in urban areas and accounts for — get this — 90,000 thefts daily in New York City, which is up 20% from four years ago. That’s 32 million a year, more than four thefts per city resident.
As Americans’ taste for online shopping — and home deliveries — has increased, so has the blatant thievery, not even deterred by the presence of visible cameras on a growing number of homes. They’re on Candid Camera? They don’t care.
Some thieves are merely opportunistic and can’t resist the lure of something outside the front door of a home they are passing. Others brazenly ride in cars that follow UPS, or FedEx, or USPS trucks, and collect the parcels moments after the truck driver places them. Thefts explode at this time of year.
I was never a victim as a kid. Why? No porch. I grew in a tenement neighborhood that was sliding into slum status. There really weren’t many deliveries, and if one came, it would be accepted by a neighbor. And that was OK because you knew your neighbor.
Many years later, when I lived in a South Philly twin in the ‘90s, I trusted my next-door neighbor, a lovely elderly woman who had been born in Italy, to accept parcels. More often I would have parcels held at the post office for me to pick up.
A little less convenient, but 100% certain.
You ever had your home burglarized?
That happened to me when I lived in a big house in Wynnefield in the late ‘60s. Some dumb thieves equated a big house with wealth.
They got very little because there wasn’t much to get, but it upsets your sense of security. It is like being personally violated.
Having stuff stolen off your porch, or front steps, is just one step up from that. At least the stinking thief wasn’t inside your home, but there remains a sense of violation.
Let’s say the thieves ripped off something that was a present for someone else. You are out the present and there may not be time to replace it.
A dirty little secret: The actual size of the porch pirates’ take is much larger than we know. Most victims don’t report the crime because most online retailers will replace the stolen item. That keeps cops in the dark.
The Philadelphia Police Department does not keep records on porch theft, but it did offer figures on theft incidents containing “package” in the notes, and excluding retail theft. There were 1,902 such thefts last year, and 2,589 through Dec. 22. The department offers these suggestions to reduce the problem
- Install motion detecting lights
- If you’re not going to be home, have a neighbor keep an eye out or have packages delivered to a location where someone will be home
- Require a signature for package delivery
- Ask your employer if you can ship items to work
- Consider using a package delivery lockbox.
Delivery companies are experimenting with local storage boxes, or even allowing delivery people to electronically open your door and place parcels inside.
That strikes me as particularly risky, but I am not particularly trusting. Are you?