Epidemic: Growing Rate of Package Theft

Growth

Like the high seas of old, the world of shipping is a ripe place for pirates—porch pirates, that is. If you were one of 23 million Americans who has been the victim of package theft, then you’re part of a growing trend of package theft. Even though property theft has been on the decline for the last 5 years, package theft has been on the rise. It makes sense. As people do more of their shopping online, there are more packages being shipped, increasing the opportunities for a crafty thief to make off with one. Beyond this, many of these packages contain really valuable products. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices make a high-value prize. With all these highly valuable packages moving around, the risk/reward balance that thieves must consider is tipped towards the reward. Compared with breaking in to steal jewelry and televisions, swiping an unattended package off the porch is very low risk. In some places it wouldn’t even be considered breaking-and-entering, a more significant crime. It’s easy to see that an intrepid porch pirate would be more inclined to go for the low-risk theft, especially when the reward can still be pretty significant ($1200 laptop or $600 cell phones sell quickly on craigslist once the price drops enough). In the economics of theft, package theft is the conservative option (strange to think of porch pirates as conservative).

The problem with this epidemic is that it’s very hard to track, and there isn’t many good data out there on the topic. Sure, we could all put up cameras to catch the crooks in the act, but not everyone wants that, and catching someone based on surveillance footage is rough. It’s also pretty rare that this footage could result in an arrest (see our post on surveillance cameras for more). Package theft also isn’t a very high priority for police, who have their hands full with other crimes. USPS does have a division devoted to this kind of crime, and UPS and FedEx do attempt to track package theft rates, but that isn’t doing much to slow the epidemic. Currently, the biggest efforts are going towards locating package theft hotspots so that when something is done, the response gets the most bang for its buck (security has its own economics, too). So, in terms of getting a stolen package back, or getting a police response, being in the hot zone might be good news for you. Otherwise, prevention is the best and maybe only medicine for the epidemic. Most carriers allow you to require a signature for delivery. This helps, but it’s inconvenient because you have to be home when the package is delivered so that you can sign (the only thing that takes longer than watching water boil is waiting for a package to arrive). An ideal solution would both make sure the package is delivered safely and undisturbed, without having you wait around all day, and would allow a delivered package to remain safe on the porch until you get home. The Package Guard is one such option.

Mike G

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