As Businesses Call Back Remote Workers, Package Theft Is on the Rise
Nearly one in four 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 But despite the steep decline in people working remotely, business leaders and politicians, including President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address, are 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 — or they are already 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 cause — an increase in porch piracy.
For nearly the past two years, we’ve been researching how common package theft, often called porch piracy, really is. No national government statistics are collected on this phenomenon, which our research shows is becoming increasingly common.
In fact, our most recent research on the subject shows a major increase in the percentage of Americans who have experienced package theft. Here are our key 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.
- Recent package theft, those occurring in the past three months, are also on the rise, with nearly one in four people saying they’ve been a recent victim.
- 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.
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, Losing Valuable Item Most Motivating Factors in Reporting Theft to Police
Fewer than one in three package theft victims say they reported the incident to police (31 percent), which is down by 10 percentage points from when we began researching porch piracy in May 2020.
However, while most people aren’t reporting these thefts, there are a couple of factors that can make them change their minds — losing something worth $100 or more or owning a doorbell camera.
Those who don’t own a doorbell camera were 25 percentage points less likely than those who do to report the incident to police, while those who lost something worth less than $50 were 21 percentage points less likely to report than those whose item was worth $100 or more.
|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.
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 survey was conducted online in March 2022.
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