How can you prevent 'porch pirates' from stealing your stuff?

porch pirates
Posted at 9:42 AM, Nov 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-27 12:06:48-05

HELENA — As you take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, there is a type of criminal waiting to take advantage of unattended packages left outside your home—porch pirates.

According to insurance company Travelers, any time there is an increase in shipping, there is also an increase in theft from inside homes and cars as well. During Cyber Monday, for example, Travelers found that on-premises theft claims went up 28 percent in the past decade, largely due to porch pirates.

“These crimes are crimes of opportunity,” said Sgt. Bryan Haven of the Helena Police Department. “They’re going to be driving down the street and if they see the package, then they’re going to seize the opportunity.”

Jennifer Wilbert of Travelers says video doorbells can't always deter crime, but they can help catch thieves in the act. "You'd have video evidence that you could share with the police as well as your insurer," she said.

In addition, your insurer might also give a discount just for having a video doorbell.

Next, she says, consider motion sensing spotlights, which are proven to chase away intruders and thieves when they switch on without warning.

"Particularly in regions where it's getting darker earlier or during the holidays, when packages are getting delivered and dropped off at all different times of the day and night," she said.

To protect your packages, Wilbert says:

  • Take advantage of delivery alerts, so you can prepare for the exact hour of arrival.
  • Ask a neighbor to bring packages in for you, if you are not home at the time.
  • Have packages delivered to your office, if you are at work.

Another tip: If you're sending a gift to another person's home, let them know a package is on the way.

"Just so they know to expect it and be on the lookout for it," she said.

porch pirates

Sgt. Haven suggested some steps people can take to protect their packages. Parcel delivery boxes can also be bought and put outside a home so packages can be securely delivered. Haven said even just asking the mail carrier to conceal the package when dropping it off can deter theft.

If your porch is plundered, there is information that you can gather that will help the police.

Tell them what was in your package—that way they can keep an eye out to see if your items are being re-sold somewhere.

“There’s nothing wrong with reporting it to us,” Haven said. “At a minimum, it gives us an idea of where these crimes are being committed in town.”

Give police a description of the suspect and vehicle, if you have it. “Just the smallest details can help us solve these crimes,” Haven said.