As Businesses Call Back Remote Workers, Package Theft Is on the Rise
Nearly 1 in 4 people have been porch pirate victims in the past three months.
About 20 million Americans worked remotely in February 2022, down from 49 million in May 2020.1 Along with the steep decline in people working remotely, business leaders and politicians, including President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address, are also urging workers to head back into the office.
In fact, about 50 percent of business leaders told Microsoft they will require workers to come back to the office in the next year — if they haven’t already begun doing so.2 While a return to the office has been touted as an important step to getting back to “normal,” there’s a possible unfortunate side effect it may have caused — an increase in porch piracy.
We’ve been researching package theft, often called porch piracy, for years now. No national government statistics are collected on this phenomenon, but our research shows that it’s becoming increasingly common. As we enter the season of online shopping holidays — Prime Day in July, Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November, and the holidays in December — it’s important to learn just how rampant porch piracy really is and how we can protect ourselves.
Our most recent research on the subject shows a major uptick in the percentage of Americans who have experienced package theft compared to our previous data. Here are some of our findings:
- More than half of Americans (54 percent) have been the victim of package theft at some point in their lives. This is up from 45 percent last year.
- Nearly 1 in 4 people (23 percent) say that they’ve been a victim of package theft within the past three months, indicating that recent package theft is on the rise.
- Most victims don’t report package theft incidents, but those who lost items valued at $100 or more and those with doorbell cameras are the most likely to tell police.
- Of the people who had a package stolen, 50 percent recently had a doorbell camera or a security camera installed, which affected the rate at which they reported the incident.
Porch Piracy Reaches Highest Levels Since Research Began in 2020
The percentage of Americans who say they’ve been the victim of package theft reached a high of 54 percent in our most recent study, an increase of 13 percentage points from when we began our research in 2020. And recent thefts, or those that happened in the past three months, also increased from their 2021 levels, though much more modestly.
Still, with more than half of people saying they’ve been victimized by porch pirates at some point in their lives, that equates to about 69 million households.
|Percentage experiencing package theft|
|* Recent refers to past three months|
Owning Doorbell Camera and Losing Valuable Item Are Most Motivating Factors in Reporting Theft to Police
The decrease in package theft reporting is apparent in our most recent research. When we began researching porch piracy in May 2020, 41 percent of the victims said they reported the incident to the authorities. That number went down by 10 percentage points in our most recent data, with only 31 percent of the victims saying that they reported the crime.
However, while most people aren’t reporting these thefts, there are a couple of factors that made them change their minds — losing something worth $100 or more or owning a doorbell camera.
Those who own a doorbell camera were 25 percent more likely to report the incident to police than those who don’t, likely due to the fact that they have video evidence of the crime. Only 19 percent of the victims who reported to police owned a doorbell camera. Additionally, nearly half (46 percent) of those who reported the incident to the authorities lost items valued at $100 or more. In comparison, those who lost something worth less than $50 were 21 percent less likely to report the crime.
|Percentage of recent package theft victims who reported incident to police|
|Own a doorbell camera||44%|
|Don't own a doorbell camera||19%|
|Item valued at $1-$49||25%|
|Item valued at $50-$99||31%|
|Item valued at $100+||46%|
While filing a police report may not help you find your stolen package, it could help prevent future thefts in your area. If authorities are aware of rising theft incidents, they could decide to devote more resources to solving the issue and catching package thieves.
>> Learn More: See our picks for the Best Video Doorbell Cameras
Preventing Package Theft
There’s no doubt that having a doorbell camera makes people more likely to report package theft, but we know that prevention is the best cure. So, how can people keep their deliveries safe, especially as more of them are expected to leave the comfort of their home offices this year?
Here’s what we recommend:
- Have packages delivered to your office (or your partner’s office). If they’re not lingering on the porch or stoop, they can’t be swiped.
- Make friends with your neighbors and ask them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity around your house (and do the same for them, of course).
- Remove obstructions around your porch. Trees and bushes may improve the curb appeal of your home, but they can also be ideal hiding places for opportunistic porch pirates.
- Ask for items to be shipped in nondescript boxes, if possible.
- Consider picking up your packages from a distribution center or shopping in the store. If you’re getting something very valuable delivered, like a computer or phone, see if you can pick it up curbside rather than taking the chance of it being left on your porch.
- Especially for valuable items, make sure you require a signature for delivery. This will ensure that the item won’t be delivered if nobody is home.
- If a package is due to arrive while you’re at work and you work near home, drop by your house at lunchtime to bring the package inside.
Like all types of theft, porch piracy is the ultimate crime of convenience. That’s why making it a challenge, whether by making sure someone is home or asking neighbors to keep a watchful eye, can help keep your deliveries safe.
We surveyed 536 U.S. adults about their experiences with package theft. Our most recent survey was conducted online in November 2022.
Need additional insights for a story?
Send our research team an email