Thief steals packages off porch

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

In the modern day and age, shopping has become as easy as clicking a button that says ‘buy now’, and getting the item delivered straight to your home - no check-out lines, no hoping your store has the item in stock, and no driving to and from various shops.
But the modern era’s shining example of online shopping also has a dark side.
According to a report issued by Comcast, at least 30 percent of homes in the United States have had packages stolen off their porches by ‘Porch Pirates’.
In the days leading up to Christmas, the wave of porch thieves grow as the packages that fill doorsteps and porches are packed with costly Christmas gifts and discounted holiday deals.
A Jefferson County home recently became a victim of such a porch pirate when the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Matthew Bowman, 40, of Monticello, for grand theft after Bowman took packages from the home of a Boston Hwy resident.
The package contained iPads that were valued at over a thousand dollars and had been taken from the home towards the end of November.
In December, Bowman attempted a second package theft at the home, but the homeowners were able to capture the thief on camera due to a home security system.
Bowman was taken into custody and arrested on Sunday, December 9.
With cases of similar thefts taking place around the country, what are some precautions that rural homeowners and online shoppers can take to prevent their packages from being stolen off their front porch?

1. Require a signature upon delivery.
If your packages require a signature upon delivery, then the UPS or FedEx delivery person will not be able to simply drop off the package without the presence of someone in the home to sign. Before making a purchase, make sure to contact the seller or sender of the package and request that they inform the delivery service to require a signature. If you aren’t home to sign, then the delivery service will attempt to deliver at another time when you are home.
2. Work with your neighbors and family.
Do you have a neighbor you trust or a family member who you know will be home? See if you can get your packages sent to their residence instead of your own. The neighbor or family member can bring your packages inside their home and hold onto your shipments until you stop by to pick them up. Just make sure to pay it forward for their kindness and helpfulness.
3. Sign up for a Post Office Box.
Purchase a PO Box, and have your shipments sent to that address. The United States Postal Service will hold onto your packages behind the desk (if they don’t fit in your box), and you’ll just have to claim them. Usually, PO Box holders have a certain amount of days to pick up their packages before the item is shipped back to the sender. You’ll also be at the whims of the Post Office hours, so you’ll have to make sure to get there before they close.
4. Ship to your workplace.
If your office allows it, have your packages sent to your place of employment. Just make sure your packages don’t get mixed up with the business’ shipments. You may also have to contend with getting the package home, so if it is a larger or heavier item, make sure you have a way to safely transport the box or item back to your home. Some services also deliver during the afternoons, so you’ll need to keep that in mind, in the event that your office closes early; if there’s no one to pick up the package, you might risk having it sent back to the sender.
5. Install a home security system.
In the event that your packages are stolen from off your porch, it helps law enforcement track down the thief if you have a home security system to capture the porch pirate’s face. While most home security systems are fairly unobtrusive and might not be seen by thieves - meaning they won’t truly deter a thief from coming onto your porch and stealing a package, dummy cameras are often larger and more visible - and cheaper. Consider pairing a home security system with a dummy camera in order to both catch and deter criminals.

So what can you do if your package was stolen? First, make sure that your package was actually delivered and not just lost in the mailing system. Contact the local office of your shipping company and make sure their delivery person dropped the package off at your home; some delivery services offer automatic package insurance.
If your package was delivered but is no longer on your property, contact law enforcement and advise them of the theft. Like offenders who shoplift or break and enter homes, porch pirates are criminals and depending on the monetary worth of the item stolen from your porch, they might face felony charges.
You’ll also want to contact the customer service department for the retailer or online business you purchased your item from and alert them to the theft.
There are differing policies between retailers on how to handle the theft of an item purchased from them, so make sure to contact them and see what can be done in your situation.
With Christmas just around the corner, online shopping is at it’s busiest and porches are becoming filled with Christmas gifts boxed and delivered; don’t let your Christmas be impacted by porch pirates or stoop surfers stealing your deliveries.