Chances are, you’ve experienced a dramatic upswing in the number of packages you’ve had delivered this year thanks to the COVID pandemic. And if you haven’t, then the holiday shopping season might change that. Unfortunately, the rise of online shopping and package deliveries means that your doorstep is ripe for plundering by porch pirates.
These package thieves have become quite skilled at swiping your goods while going unnoticed. Some package thieves work at night, scooping up packages from mailrooms, lobbies and porches, but many operate in broad daylight, brazenly stealing any package they can find. So what strategies can you employ to defeat this neighborhood menace?
Short of paying a security guard to sit on your stoop all day or moving to a new location, there is no foolproof solution to fully stopping this irritating practice, but there are a number of effective ways to stop porch pirates. With these tips, you can at least make life as difficult as possible for your local porch pirates.
This includes connected home security products, such as video doorbells and home security cameras, which can deter porch pirates from the act altogether, or give you a good look at them if they’re still bold enough to attempt a heist.
And if you want to take things a step further, there are a number of delivery arrangements that minimize porch-raiding opportunities during the holidays, which are a bonanza for package thieves.
Ready to learn how to stop porch pirates for good? Keep reading for the scoop on how to keep your packages secure.
1. Use a Video Doorbell To Deter Thieves
One of the most crucial tools you can buy to fight porch pirates is a doorbell cam. These devices come in many shapes and sizes, and vary in terms of features, but the core functionality is the same: When somebody comes to your door and triggers the motion sensor, the doorbell cam begins recording and sends you a notification that there was activity at your door.
From there, smart doorbell cams will have more advanced features, such as person, animal and package detection, the ability to capture footage in the seconds before the motion sensor is activated, and the ability to send notifications with additional context. If you do fall victim to a porch pirate, this footage can be used to help track down the culprit, but merely having one of these at your door can deter someone from even attempting to steal your package in the first place. Many thieves are looking for a low-risk opportunity, and the mere sight of a camera may be enough to ward off intruders.
So which video doorbell do we recommend? A few that stand out include the Nest Hello Video Doorbell, which can detect familiar faces; the Eufy Pro Cam 2K, which stores your footage on a local hard drive so you don’t have to pay for a cloud subscription, and the Arlo Video Doorbell, which has a number of smart AI-powered features to make sure nothing goes unnoticed. The Ring Doorbell Video Cams from Amazon are also popular options, but it’s worth noting that the company has had issues with privacy and security in the past when it comes to storing and sharing user’s footage. That said, they are the only company that makes a peephole camera, which is a great option for those living in apartments.
To get the most out of these connected camera products, you will usually need to buy a monthly cloud subscription, too. Without that, features like object detection might not be available and you won’t be able to review footage after it happens. The one exception here is the Eufy family of cameras, which provide local storage.
For more on the best video doorbells, be sure to read our shopping guide here.
2. Use a Smart Delivery Box
As online shopping continues to become the norm for people, Smart Delivery Boxes are emerging as an innovative new delivery method. If you live in a large city, you may have seen smart dropoff lockers at local retailers, and companies like Amazon and UPS are testing these machines. However, what if you could have your own personal dropoff locker?
The Yale Smart Delivery Box not only offers an effective solution against porch pirates, but also offers a glimpse at a future where a delivery box is as common as a mailbox.
The gist is this: A delivery man can walk up to the box, open it, and deposit the package. Once the lid closes, it will automatically lock and remain that way until you come home and unlock with it the companion app or optional keypad. If for whatever reason the lid is locked before a package is placed in the box, you can easily unlock it with your phone no matter where you’re at, and the app will also send you notifications whenever the box is locked or unlocked.
While there could be some initial issues with delivery people opting to use the box (or knowing how), that’s less an issue with the product itself, and more just a matter of awareness, which will happen in time. (Amazon has said it plans to educate its couriers on using the Yale Smart Delivery Box). But the idea itself is sound, and it’s easy to imagine a point where we all have our own boxes with multiple compartments where delivery people can deposit your daily drop of goods and be on their way.
In short, we think the Yale Smart Delivery Box represents the future of home package delivery.
3. Set Up Outdoor Security Cameras
A doorbell camera is a very effective tool in the fight against porch pirates, but if your packages are dropped off somewhere other than your front porch, or the view from your door is heavily obscured, you may want to consider some outdoor security cameras.
Security cameras are nothing new, but like doorbell cams, modern versions are connected to the internet and come with detection features that can alert you in the event that there’s unusual activity around your house. Plus you can put as many cameras as you want (within reason), anywhere you want, offering a lot of versatility in how you use these.
Those who want the ultimate in security should take a look at the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which records in 4K, can follow people as they walk through the frame, and let you zoom in to get a closer look at anyone you don’t recognize. But there are great options from the other companies previously mentioned, including Eufy, Arlo and Ring which come in a range of options from 1080p to 4K. Those who are more budget-minded should also take a look at the Wyze cameras, which cost a fraction of what their competing cameras sell for and still offer most of the core features.
While you can mix and match camera brands to fit your needs and budget, those looking for convenience will probably want to stick with one brand to avoid having to use multiple apps and pay for multiple cloud services.
For more on the best outdoor security cameras, check out our guide here.
4. Install Motion-Activated Lights
While most of these cameras offer some sort of night vision functionality, you might still feel uncomfortable with a package sitting on your stoop in the time between sundown and you getting home from work. If this is the case, a tried-and-true floodlamp with a motion sensor will not only illuminate the areas captured on camera (offering a better look at anyone approaching your doorstep), but also make them visible to passersby.
If you want to kill two birds with one stone, there are lights that are integrated with home security cameras from brands such as Eufy, Arlo and Ring, some of which will also sound an alarm to ward off porch pirates. If you want to stop package theft, it’s a powerful combination.
5. Provide Specific Delivery Instructions (or Pick a Set Delivery Time)
If you have a discrete area of your house where packages can be left out of sight (like the gated side area of your house or building, you can provide specific instructions for the delivery person to leave it exactly where you want. If shopping through Amazon, you can provide these instructions when you’re filling out the shipping info during checkout. But for most other scenarios, you will need to take your tracking number for whatever shipping service is being used (USPS, UPS, FedEx), and provide specific instructions through their site.
Alternatively, if you have a free account with UPS or FedEx, you can specify a day and window of time you’d like your package delivered so that you can plan to be home when it arrives. Likewise, Amazon will also let you pick your delivery day. This is hardly a practical long-term solution for all your deliveries, but if it’s something of value, it’s always a smart option.
6. Give Amazon Locker a Try
Did you know that if you buy something on Amazon, you can have it shipped to a secured locker that unlocks with a password supplied to you by Amazon? Unless you’re ordering something oversized or irregularly shaped (such as a TV), and don’t live in a super remote part of the country, Amazon has an entire network of these lockers in stores and other publicly-accessible spaces which are a reasonable distance from where you live.
When choosing your shipping options during the checkout process, Amazon will tell you if your package can be delivered to a locker, and provide a list of locations for you to choose from. It may not be as convenient as having your package delivered to your home, but it’s pretty quick and easy to pop into a 7-11, enter a password at the locker terminal, and walk out with your undisturbed goods. All things considered, it’s a small price to pay if you live amongst porch pirates.
7. Have Your Package Held for Pickup (or Ship it to an Alternate Location)
This is the nuclear option.
Nobody likes having to rush to the post office or the FedEx/UPS shipping centers before they close and have to wait in line, but if you absolutely need to guarantee that your new computer or TV won’t get swiped, electing to hold your package for delivery is the best and only way to guarantee a safe delivery.
How to go about this differs depending on where you’re shopping and what company is handling the shipping, but there are a couple of typical ways this plays out.
- Many retailers will give you the option of shipping to one of their stores that’s closest to you or to another business they’re partnered with, letting you pick up the package at your convenience.
- Amazon will let you choose to have your package shipped to one of its Hub Counters during checkout if you’re a Prime member. These are often located inside grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail locations.
- If you have a tracking number for your shipment, you can create an account with USPS, UPS or FedEx and then elect to have the package held at the closest distribution center or retail location so that you can pick it up. (You can also redirect packages if there are any issues with the address.)
- And finally, many independent mail and shipping stores will let you have your package shipped to them as long as it meets their size and weight requirements. There may be a fee involved if you go this route, so you may want to call a local shop ahead of time.
We’re confident that with one of the seven options listed above, you’ll be able to stop package theft. Stopping porch pirates takes some proactive planning, but it’s always worth it in the end.
Good luck out there!