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.1
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 Americans enter the second half of the year filled with shopping holidays and online sale events2 — Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and year-end sales — the Security.org team commissioned our largest package theft endeavor yet. We conducted a porch piracy study involving more than 18,000 adults in all 50 states and continue to research the subject quarterly. Our goal is to paint a complete picture of porch piracy’s regional impacts based on firsthand experiences rather than generic crime rate projections or Google search trends.
Here are some of our 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, peaked at 22 percent during the 2020 holidays before declining to 17 percent in the first half of 2021 as the economy gradually reopened. Our more recent study, however, shows that porch piracy is on the rise as workers return to office. Nearly 1 in 4 (23 percent) of our respondents say that they’ve had a package stolen in the three months leading up to March 2022, beating the previous peak in December 2020.
As companies continue to urge their employees to abandon their work-from-home setup, and as we enter the season of online sale events, it is likely that we’ll continue to see a surge in porch piracy incidents.
|Percentage experiencing package theft|
*Recent = past three months, except October 2021 when participants were asked about the past 12 months
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|
|Rhode Island||25%||South Carolina||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|
|Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Wyoming||$75||New Jersey||$35|
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 paired the nation’s lowest cost of living with a high rate of package theft victims (24 percent), while New Yorkers paid dearly to live in their state and also got 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 a security system, the police often have little evidence to follow. In fact, in one of our studies, we found that those who didn’t have a doorbell camera or security system were less likely to report porch piracy. Out of all the respondents that reported the incident, only 19 percent owned a doorbell camera.
» Learn more: Find the Best Home Security System
On the other hand, 44 percent of those who reported to police owned a doorbell camera and likely had enough evidence. However, 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. That’s likely one of the reasons why porch piracy reporting is low among victims whose stolen packages were worth less than $50. In our research, we found that those who lost something worth less than $50 were 21 percent less likely to report the crime than those whose items were worth $100.
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 recently victimized 23 percent.
Porch piracy is a crime of convenience, so 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 can enable professionals to handle that for you. Not only can these measures deter pirates, they can also help apprehend them by creating video evidence of any suspicious activities.
Choose secure delivery locations: As workers return to the office, it’s important to select secure delivery locations for parcels that will arrive when you’re not home. The office mailroom is a popular and safe delivery choice for many, but there are other secure options available. Smart security boxes for your porch keep packages from sitting in the open.
Amazon shoppers have several options, including Amazon Key, an in-home delivery option that gives drivers limited access to your garage or home through a compatible smart lock or garage door controller. However, with Amazon shutting down support for the Amazon Cloud Cam — the camera originally made to monitor in-home deliveries — you’ll need a secondary camera to record deliveries for your protection. Of course, 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.
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 while some states are safer, 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!
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.
|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|
*Source: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation “Offenses Known to Law Enforcement 2020” report (table four)
- Statista. (2021, May). Share of U.S. consumers using online shopping before and after COVID-19 as of September 2020 and February 2021, by selected categories.
- U.S. News. (2022, Jan 5). The Best Days to Shop in 2022.
- U.S Code. (2002, Jan 22). 18 USC 1708: Theft or receipt of stolen mail matter generally.