A number of media outlets have been investigating crime numbers to see if the coronavirus pandemic is having any effect. It is a mixed bag. Violent crime is up in some places but down in others. The same is true for property crimes. Even porch piracy is up or down in different places. Interestingly enough, it would seem that this is the perfect time for porch piracy to skyrocket.
We probably won’t know for at least a couple of years whether or not the coronavirus pandemic actually had a measurable impact on crime. We do know that at least one city, Los Angeles, has logged an increase in porch piracy complaints since March 2023.
Police officials say that enterprising porch pirates are taking advantage of a perfect storm of circumstances to do what they do. And if it is happening in L.A., chances are that it’s happening elsewhere.
More Opportunities to Steal
Porch piracy increasing during the pandemic actually makes sense. People afraid to visit local shopping centers are turning to online shopping in greater numbers. The biggest names in online retail have been working overtime to keep up with the demand since the start of the pandemic.
With so much shopping now being done online, porch pirates have more opportunities to steal. If pre-pandemic opportunities could be compared to choosing from a menu at a sit-down restaurant, the volume of opportunities created by the pandemic would be more like an unlimited buffet line.
More opportunities mean more crimes. If nothing else, porch piracy is a crime of opportunity. Thieves drive around neighborhoods looking for exposed packages on front porches. They pull up, snatch the packages, and drive away before anyone knows what has happened.
Following Delivery Drivers Around
One of the more disturbing trends noticed by police agencies is that porch pirates are following delivery drivers around. In essence, delivery companies are leading thieves right to the goods. A thief will wait down the street for the driver to pull away. Then he or she will pull up to the house and do what he/she does.
Unfortunately, delivery companies are now requiring their drivers to take extra precautions for their own protection. Drivers are being instructed to not touch door handles, open gates, or do anything else that might expose them to coronavirus. So packages are being left even more exposed than they were before. This only emboldens porch pirates to steal more.
What Can Be Done
The obvious question here is one of what can be done. Perhaps it is time for us to get into the Christmas mindset. Why? According to Carson City, Nevada Sheriff’s office, porch piracy normally increases during the Christmas shopping season. We are used to that. As such, we are used to taking extra precautions from November through mid-January.
This year, it doesn’t make sense to wait until November. Those same things we would do during the holiday shopping season are appropriate year-round. Porch pirates are behaving much the same way now as they did last Christmas.
The Carson City Sheriff’s Office web page reminds locals that porch pirates often canvass neighborhoods pretending to be someone they are not. They might act as if they are looking for a friend or a relative. They might be dressed like utility company workers. They might even attempt to pass themselves off as survey takers.
So what are homeowners to do? Carson City Sheriff’s say that video surveillance helps them solve the majority of burglary and theft crimes. This would include porch piracy. This suggests that installing a video camera or video doorbell is the first step in stopping thieves.
Deploying Preemptive Strategies
Vivint Smart Home, one of the first home security companies to embrace the video doorbell, agrees that video surveillance is a good idea. But they also suggest taking preemptive action against porch piracy. They offer some great suggestions for outsmarting porch pirates, including the following:
Take Delivery at Work
Arranging for packages to be delivered to your workplace is a fantastic idea. Of course, that is assuming your employer doesn’t mind. Taking delivery at work completely removes porch piracy as a concern. Thieves cannot take packages that are not on your porch. And there is always someone at work to accept deliveries.
Require a Signature
In many instances, you can require a signature for deliveries to your home. A signature requirement prevents delivery drivers from leaving packages unless someone at your home signs for them. This can be a hassle in the sense that it will become your responsibility to retrieve packages that are not left, but at least signature requirements prevent porch piracy.
Arrange for Locker Delivery
Delivery companies are starting to embrace the idea of installing community lockers around town. Where lockers are available, you can arrange to have your packages delivered to a local facility. You will receive a notice upon delivery, then it is up to you to drive to the location and retrieve packages from the locker. You are given a code that allows you to open the locker.
Invest in Your Own Locker
As an alternative, you can purchase your own package locker to use at home. Secure the locker to your porch or an outside wall. You program the locker with an access code, then give that code to the delivery company as needed. You can change the code as often as you like.
Utilize Delivery Alerts
Delivery companies are also beginning to send out alerts when packages are left. If you have that option, utilize it. An alert will tell you exactly when a package arrives. You can then contact a friend or neighbor and ask that your package be retrieved and stored until you get home.
Porch pirates in Los Angeles are on the move during the pandemic. They might be on the move in Carson City as well. While we will not know actual numbers for years, why take the chance? Assume the pandemic is causing a spike in porch piracy and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself.