Written By: Security.org Team | Published: November 23, 2021

Americans took to online shopping long before the pandemic, embracing the ease of one-click purchases and packages left on their porch. COVID-19 embedded e-commerce even deeper as we sheltered away from the virus.

Unfortunately, the same shopping conveniences that benefit consumers are a boon for criminals who prey on our parcels. Package theft has become an epidemic of its own, with our quarterly research revealing that “porch pirate” activity has grown during the outbreak. We also found that this issue spiked during the 2020 gift-giving season.

As annual online purchases approach $1 trillion,1 and Americans prepare to do most of their holiday shopping online,2 we commissioned our largest package theft research endeavor yet. By conducting a study of more than 18,000 adults in all 50 states, Security.org has assembled the first complete picture of regional impacts based on first-hand experience rather than generic crime rate projections or Google search trends.

Key findings:

  • Nationally, 49 million Americans have had at least one package stolen in the past 12 months.
  • The prevalence of victims ranged from a high of 29 percent in Alaska to a low of 12 percent in Maine.
  • The median value of stolen merchandise was $50, with state-specific averages varying from $30 (Arizona) to $80 (Alaska).
  • The incident rates and average loss captured in our research reflect more than $2.4 billion in stolen goods over the past 12 months.

Theft Rates Remain High Heading Into Holidays

Nationally, 19 percent of American adults – or 49 million consumers – had at least one delivery stolen in the year leading to November 2021. Our prior research suggests that the frequency of package thefts jumped at the outset of the pandemic and peaked at 22 percent during the 2020 holidays before declining to 17 percent in the first half of 2021 as the economy gradually reopened.

Percentage experiencing package theft
Survey period Ever Recent*
May 2020 41% 19%
August 2020 41% 19%
October 2020 40% 19%
December 2020 45% 22%
July 2021 40% 17%
October 2021 19%

*Recent = past three months, except October 2021 when participants were asked about the past 12 months

It’s unclear whether the porch piracy wave will continue to ebb or if a surge of online holiday shopping will drive another sharp spike this year. Also unknown prior to this report was how package theft varied in each state.

Using the interactive map below, you can find the percentage of adults in each state who lost at least one package in the last 12 months and the median value of stolen packages in that state. At the end of the article you can find a detailed data table with information on all 50 states, including their relative theft victim rankings.

States with highest package theft rates

States with lowest package theft rates

Alaska 29% Maine 12%
Delaware 27% Wisconsin 13%
Nevada 27% Alabama 14%
New York 27% Georgia 14%
Rhode Island 25% South Carolina 14%
Hawaii 25% New Mexico 14%
West Virginia 25% South Dakota 14%

Our results show that the concentration of package theft victims is lowest in Maine and nearly two-and-a-half times higher in Alaska. Delaware, Nevada, and New York followed Alaska as the states where package theft was most likely, while Wisconsin, Alabama, and Georgia trailed Maine as the safest spots for delivery.

Average Stolen Package Valued at $50

While it’s tricky to know the value of what’s inside a box until it’s opened, thieves in some states are getting luckier than those snatching packages in regions. Overall, the median value of stolen packages nationwide was $50.

However, there were some differences across the nation. Alaska and Rhode Island topped the list for both package theft rates and median value of stolen shipments, followed closely by Oklahoma. Arizona thieves ended up stealing the lowest value packages, followed closely by Illinois, Louisiana, and New Jersey.

States with highest median value of stolen packages

States with lowest median value of stolen packages

Alaska $80 Arizona $30
Rhode Island $80 Illinois $35
Oklahoma $77 Louisiana $35
Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Wyoming $75 New Jersey $35
Delaware $69 Wisconsin $36

Package Thieves Strikes Every Type of Community

Much like real buccaneers sailing the high seas, porch pirates are liable to strike anywhere. We found that package theft rates varied widely between states, independent of other demographic factors.

A deeper statistical analysis confirmed that this scourge may affect any area regardless of economics, environment, or setting:

  • Our largest state had the highest victim rate (Alaska, at 29 percent), followed by tiny Delaware (where 27 percent of residents had a package stolen);
  • Twenty-four percent lost parcels on the wide-open prairies of North Dakota, and 25 percent were targeted in densely populated Rhode Island;
  • Mississippi pairs the nation’s lowest cost of living with a high rate of package theft victims (24 percent), while New Yorkers pay dearly to live in their state and also get pinched on the porch (fourth highest victim rate at 27 percent);
  • Thieves struck across every climate, from 25 percent of Hawaiians in paradise to 21 percent of chilly Vermonters.

Crime and Punishment: Public Efforts to Curb Piracy

Increased e-commerce spending has undoubtedly fueled package theft, but so has a lack of serious deterrence.

Porch piracy is a crime of opportunity that rarely ends in arrest – unless a home has security systems, the police often have little evidence to follow. Even apprehended thieves often evade severe punishment, with the crime falling through cracks in the law.

Mail theft is a federal crime that can bring a stiff sentence but covers only USPS packages or parcels within (or adjacent to) mailboxes.3 An Amazon delivery left on your stairs invokes no federal jurisdiction, and the $50 median value of poached packages leaves individual offenses classified as misdemeanors in many states.

Some legislatures are fighting back with statutes specifically addressing package theft. Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas have already passed porch pirate laws that carry tougher penalties or make repeat offenses into felonies, and four others – California, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina – have introduced similar bills.

Most of these laws were only recently enacted, so time will tell how effective they are. Perhaps as these laws take full effect and other states follow suit, thieves will think twice before stealing

Sinking the Pirates: How You Can Protect Your Deliveries

With thieves striking everywhere and most current laws inadequate for prevention, it's imperative to take personal precautions to avoid joining the victimized 19 percent.

Enhance your security measures: Home security systems are now more affordable and simpler to install than ever before, and there are a variety of devices to fit your home. Doorbell cameras let you monitor your porch from anywhere via your phone, or home security systems enable professionals to handle that for you. Not only can these measures deter pirates, but help apprehend them by creating video evidence of any suspicious activities.

Choose secure delivery locations: Remote working has eliminated the office mailroom as a delivery choice for many, but other options are still available. Smart security boxes for your porch keep packages from sitting in the open, or Amazon will put your items in public lockers in retail spots across the country. Amazon is also trying a new Amazon Key service that gives drivers limited access to your garage or home. If you have a neighbor or nearby family member who is always home, you can always route delivery to them instead.

Schedule shipments carefully: Most services let you choose a delivery window so you can schedule drop-offs when you'll be home. Alternatively, precision package tracking lets you arrange your errands around a driver's arrival. If you're unsure about timing, you can always require a signature for a delivery or add detailed instructions to a safer spot on your property so parcels aren't left unguarded.

Conclusion

Although hapless porch pirates captured on camera have provided hilarious package theft videos, disappearing deliveries are no laughing matter – especially ahead of the holidays. Supply chain issues have made gifts harder to come by and packages potentially more valuable, so be sure to take personal precautions.

Our research revealed that some states are safer, but package theft is a significant issue everywhere. Take extra care against thieving grinches no matter where you live and if you don’t have security, consider routing packages to a family member residing in Maine!

Methodology

We used an online survey to ask 18,437 adults from all 50 states about their personal experiences with package theft over the last 12 months. The poll was conducted in October and November 2021. Participants who’d had a package stolen were asked to report the approximate value of their most recently stolen shipment.

Data appendix

State Percentage who’ve had at least one package stolen in past 12 months Package theft incidence rank Median value of most recently stolen goods
Alabama 13.8% 48 $49
Alaska 29.0% 1 $80
Arizona 18.6% 23 $30
Arkansas 19.5% 22 $50
California 21.0% 18 $40
Colorado 17.7% 30 $50
Connecticut 21.8% 13 $50
Delaware 27.2% 2 $69
Florida 17.3% 34 $44
Georgia 13.9% 47 $45
Hawaii 25.2% 6 $66
Idaho 14.5% 43 $59
Illinois 19.8% 21 $35
Indiana 15.4% 41 $43
Iowa 21.6% 14 $50
Kansas 23.2% 11 $50
Kentucky 16.0% 37 $50
Louisiana 17.5% 33 $35
Maine 11.6% 50 $50
Maryland 20.5% 20 $50
Massachusetts 15.6% 39 $40
Michigan 18.4% 26 $50
Minnesota 14.8% 42 $40
Mississippi 23.6% 9 $75
Missouri 16.8% 35 $50
Montana 17.7% 31 $60
Nebraska 21.2% 17 $75
Nevada 26.9% 3 $62
New Hampshire 21.2% 16 $75
New Jersey 18.5% 25 $35
New Mexico 14.3% 45 $50
New York 26.9% 4 $50
North Carolina 15.4% 40 $50
North Dakota 24.2% 8 $60
Ohio 18.0% 27 $40
Oklahoma 23.3% 10 $77
Oregon 18.6% 24 $45
Pennsylvania 16.2% 36 $43
Rhode Island 25.4% 5 $80
South Carolina 14.2% 46 $50
South Dakota 14.4% 44 $75
Tennessee 15.7% 38 $50
Texas 17.9% 28 $45
Utah 22.9% 12 $50
Vermont 20.6% 19 $62
Virginia 17.5% 32 $45
Washington 21.3% 15 $45
West Virginia 24.9% 7 $55
Wisconsin 13.2% 49 $36
Wyoming 17.8% 29 $75

*Source: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation “Offenses Known to Law Enforcement 2020” report (table four)

References

  1. https://blog.adobe.com/en/publish/2021/03/15/adobe-digital-economy-index-covid-19-report#gs.fl0b0z
  2. https://www.savings.com/insights/black-friday-forecast
  3. https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:18%20section:1708