Delivery companies fight 'porch pirates'

Entrepreneur, others offer ways to halt thefts of holiday packages

ORLANDO, Fla. – Shipping companies like FedEx and UPS expect to deliver a record number of packages this holiday season, driven in large part by increased online shopping.

Law enforcement officials are concerned that a record number of thieves could be following the trucks and attempting to steal the packages from porches before customers get home.

To combat so-called "porch pirates," many homeowners are installing surveillance cameras to monitor their front doors.

Earlier this month, Kim Parker’s cameras captured thieves stealing gifts that were shipped from online retailer Amazon. 

“You can clearly see the kid’s face,” Parker said. “And he picks up the package and then he turns his back away, and the other two kids that were standing out there tell him to shake it.  And he shook it and they stuck it in his backpack, and away they walked.”

Parker alerted neighbors on Facebook, and Oviedo police soon found and arrested three juveniles. Investigators were unable to recover the stolen gifts, telling Parker that the teens had thrown them out.

Hoping to stop porch pirates from taking packages, Seattle entrepreneur Michael Grabham invented a Frisbee-sized device called The Package Guard.

When delivery drivers place parcels on top of the $69 device, customers receive an alert via text message or email or through an app. If a thief tries to remove the packages from the pressure-sensitive pad, a piercing alarm sounds. The device can also be set up to send electronic alerts to neighbors if a theft is underway, according to the company’s website.

FedEx allows customers to schedule deliveries for a more convenient time or redirect shipments to a different location, such the customer’s workplace or a neighbor’s home. The shipping company will also deliver packages to its FedEx Office retail locations.

UPS also allows its customers to schedule delivery times and redirect shipments. Besides delivering packages to UPS Store retail locations, the company has also has parcel pickup locations at other businesses, such as grocery stores or delis, that may be more convenient.

FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service allow customers to set up electronic alerts to notify them when deliveries have been made.    

Online retailer Amazon is attempting to combat porch pirates by installing package lockers at 24-hour businesses such as 7-Eleven convenience stores.

When customers request that their Amazon purchases be delivered to the locker, they will receive an emailed code that is used to unlock the door and retrieve their merchandise.  Amazon lockers can also be used to return unwanted or defective items.


About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.