Porch piracy hitting record levels

With Christmas approaching, mail carriers and delivery services are doing a thriving business as usual. People are sending and receiving presents all over the nation and many of those packages are simply left at the doorstep of the recipient, particularly when there is nobody home to personally receive them. Sadly, that presents an opportunity for thieves who sometimes follow the delivery vehicles around, looking for an opportunity to snatch the parcels. This phenomenon of what’s come to be known as porch piracy has been with us for a long time, but a recent study indicates that this type of crime is hitting record levels in 2021. More than 200 million packages have been reported stolen this year and that represents a 36% increase over 2020. Well over one-half of Americans have reported at least one package being heisted. (NY Post)

The annual influx of holiday parcels might seem like a cause for celebration. However, experts warn gift recipients to remain extra vigilant this Christmas: A recent survey found that a staggering 210 million packages vanished from porches across the US over the past 12 months.

“Package theft is a crime of opportunity,” said Dr. Ben Stickle, a criminal justice and theft expert at home security website Safewise, which conducted the research. “As the Christmas gift season gets into full swing, there will be a significant increase in packages on a porch.”

Safewise found that a mind-boggling 64.1% of Americans have been victims of package theft in the last year — a 36% increase from the prior year, according to the survey — and 53.5% had multiple parcels snatched during that period.

To a certain extent, you might have expected to see an increase in porch piracy over the levels reported in 2020. For much of last year, most of the nation was locked down so people tended to be home during the day rather than being at work. This means there was probably a car in the driveway and other signs of the home being occupied, likely making thieves more cautious about trying anything. Also, the recipient is more likely to either greet the delivery person at the door or at least come out quickly to bring in the parcels. People returning to work might account for a significant chunk of the increase being observed.

I still find the numbers rather shocking, however. Interfering with the delivery of the mail is a felony, so I’d have thought that potential thieves would be more hesitant. Also, security camera systems like Ring have become rather ubiquitous. How is it that more of these pirates aren’t being locked up? Are there just too many cases for the police to investigate them all?

Looking a bit deeper into the question, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that what we’re observing is yet another symptom of moral decay in America in the modern era. I still believe that the vast majority of us would never even consider sneaking up to someone’s door and stealing their parcels. But that obviously doesn’t apply to everyone. We’ve covered far too many stories here about the mass looting and organized “smash and grab” attacks on retail outlets. Some of that is certainly attributable to states that have “decriminalized” theft in a misguided effort to enact social reform measures. But the looting of parcels is taking place at increased levels in nearly all states, including those who haven’t made such changes to their laws.

Nor can we wholly attribute this to gang activity, though that clearly accounts for some of it. Many of these porch pirates appear to be solo actors and they show up in small rural and suburban areas without significant organized crime presences.

So is there really that much of a shift in moral decency taking place? Has the idea of being a thief simply become “normalized” in larger segments of the population? If so, it’s a sad statement about society at large. But it’s also a reminder that we need to return to disincentivizing criminal activity of all types. A movement seeking to defang law enforcement agencies and “empty the jails” simply sends out an invitation for more people to engage in this illegal conduct even if they had previously been reluctant to take the chance.

In the meantime, if you don’t have any sort of doorway surveillance system you should probably consider investing in one if you can afford it. And don’t be afraid to be aggressive in delivering any evidence you record to the police and check back with them on a regular basis to ensure they are actually working on the case. Beyond that, you can contact your state and local officials and remind them that you will not be supporting anyone running for office who promises to “defund the police” or “empty the jails.” We have law enforcement in this country for a reason and the need for it is growing rather than receding.

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