‘Tis the Season: for Porch Pirates

By Steve Pomper 

It’s that time of year, again. No, not Christmas, Hanukah, and the holiday season, but the season when pirates roam the high seas. Okay, not so much the high seas, but maybe High Street. And they’re not your traditional pirates—Arrgh!—but so-called Porch Pirates.

These parasites rip off not only your mail and packages but also your peace of mind. And they’re getting increasingly tactical. Porch pirates are an extension of the common mail thief. As the name betrays, these thieves lurk through neighborhoods, pilfering mail from mailboxes.

While they also steal outgoing mail, the big problem today is with incoming mail and packages stolen from mailboxes and near front doors. I belong to my community’s Facebook page. There are daily reports of porch pirates thieving people’s mail and packages in our area. But we’re not unique, porch pirates are proliferating across the nation.

There are some defenses people should consider. Now, some of these suggestions may seem obvious to you, but to a cop, I learned a long time ago that obvious is not always so… well, so obvious. Don’t leave your mail in the mailbox or your packages at your door any longer than you have to.

I’m constantly reading about people who’ve had their mail and even packages stolen overnight. Of course, some disabled people may have difficulties getting to their mailboxes in a timely fashion. Or frail elderly folks might have a hard time of it when it snows. This falls to neighbors to be on the alert for such folks and offer to help them get their mail and packages.

There is another issue regarding the delivery companies themselves. While they are certainly not responsible for the thefts, they could help deter porch pirates with how they leave packages at your door.

I don’t know about at your house, but at mine, my wife’s online buying habits are a porch pirate’s dream. Especially at Christmastime when we have packages delivered daily—sometimes more than one or two or…. I’m surprised there’s not one hiding in the shrubs, right now. Though, I’d have something other than a package for ‘em.

In fact, several years back, I took to referring to our delivery drivers as my wife’s chippies. The odd thing is she took no offense. Instead, she just looks at me with a shameless—even prideful—smirk. Some firefighters can be so rude to cops.

Fortunately, we have a Ring doorbell that lets us know when someone’s at the front door. Being retired and working from home, we can get our packages and mail more quickly than those who don’t have this advantage. Still, more often than not, when I open the door, even within seconds of the Ring chime, the driver has already Olympic-sprinted back to his or her truck.

Inevitably, the delivery folks leave our packages right smack in front of our door, visible to friends and foes alike. In fact, they couldn’t make the packages a more attractive target for porch pirates if they tied a big, bright red bow on it. We have wicker furniture on our porch. It might take a delivery driver an extra millisecond to slide the package next to a chair, out of view of porch pirates.

But even this defensive strategy now has snags. News reports have these bandits shadowing U.S. Post Office, UPS, Fed Ex, and other delivery drivers, so they can snatch the packages immediately after delivery.

Some law enforcement agencies are conducting stings, using “bait boxes” and some armed with “glitter bombs” to catch or simply thwart these criminals. If you don’t have this option, I suggest asking your delivery drivers directly to be more discreet in where they leave packages or you can contact the companies.

With so many local jurisdictions focusing few resources on property crimes, people must rely on themselves and use some ingenuity to prevent mail and package theft. Many people aren’t aware the U.S. Postal Service has its own police force under the auspices of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. I imagine if enough victims complain, it might get the USPS to commit resources to the problem. The Post Office also provides tips to help protect Americans from mail theft.

In my town, a small local grocery store has offered to hold town residents’ packages at their store. This way people can pick them up when it’s convenient. Might these folks also pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk while at the store? Sure, but it doesn’t diminish the kind gesture. It just makes things work out all around.

You can also get a locking mailbox. We did that a few years back when someone was stealing mail in our neighborhood. Fortunately, we were not victims. But we eventually learned that the thief was a cute little 10-year-old girl who lived a few houses up the street from us.

Finally, if you see anyone acting suspiciously in your neighborhood, especially loitering around mailboxes or in front of people’s houses, or driving slowly through your neighborhood multiple times, call 911.

While this may not be a high priority call, you never know when an officer might be patrolling nearby. At the very least an officer’s social contact or simple police car drive-by might have the possible porch pirates sailing on down the road.

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