A warning about porch pirates

Millions of packages are stolen off of American’s porches every year, especially during the holiday shopping season. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- We are now deep into the holiday season, meaning that thousands upon thousands of last-minute packages are being delivered to doorsteps everywhere. 

Naturally, as many have come to find out the hard way, when a box is left unguarded on someone’s doorstep, it is ripe for theft by the opportunistic. Such theft causes untold numbers in monetary damages and headaches every year, especially in the later months of the year. 

Westfield is no exception as porch piracy, as it has come to be called, has been reported to Westfield police increasingly in the past several weeks. 

On a national level, it is something of an epidemic. According to a study a few years ago by InsuranceQuotes, upwards of 26 million Americans (approximately eight percent) have at least one package stolen off of their porch in a given year.

If it happens to you, there is very little you can do to catch the thief without a little bit of luck and the perfect set of circumstances. 

Police Capt. Michael A. McCabe said that the obvious first step for someone who find themselves to be the victim of porch piracy is to report it to the local police. 

“One should call the police department to report it in order to get retribution from the company that send it,” said McCabe.

As far as the actual “pirate” is concerned, there are steps one can take before it happens to help police track them down after the fact. Rapidly gaining popularity are the various brands of video doorbells such as Ring or Nest. These doorbells have less of a doorbell function and operate instead as a subtle form of security camera. 

Even if the obvious presence of a security camera does not deter the thief, the constant video recording may give one a glimpse of their face, which can be turned over to police so they may find the perpetrator. 

“It is really difficult to investigate unless there is video evidence,” said McCabe. 

The best way for one to avoid falling victim to porch piracy is, as with many things, prevention. There are a handful of ways to make sure that one’s package is in their own hands before it is taken by someone else. 

You may have noticed in some stores in the area the presence of what appears to be a group of small lockers like one would find in a gym. These Amazon Lockers have been increasingly popping up inside existing small stores over the last year or so. The idea is that one can have their package delivered to these locations and kept secure until you are ready to go pick it up. 

When the package arrives in the locker, a code will be sent to your amazon app or account which can be used to open the locker and retrieve the item. The nearest Amazon Locker in Westfield is located in the GNC store on East Main St. 

Of course the lockers are only so big, and thus large enough items are not allowed to be delivered to them. If one orders a large item, or chooses not to use Amazon at all, another option encouraged by local authorities and mail carriers is to have the packages sent to their place of work during the day. Most packages will be delivered during the work day, meaning that one can guarantee someone will be there to pick it up on your behalf, if you are not there yourself. 

The third option requires a little bit of advance planning, and relies on the delivery company having accurate tracking. Most companies, such as Fedex, UPS, the United States Postal Service, and Amazon itself have their own tracking software to keep the customer aware of where their package is on the delivery route. 

In some cases, the tracking is accurate down to the minute of delivery, meaning one can plan to be at the site of delivery to personally take the package inside. 


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