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Illustration by Security Management

Porch Piracy

As soon as the Thanksgiving feast is put away and the dishes are washed, it seems like most of us focus on holiday shopping. E-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, along with the plethora of online retailer sites, have changed how most people shop; but that convenience also means a new risk: porch piracy. 

According to the market research group C+R Research's 2019 Package Theft Statistics Report, drawing from a 2,000-consumer pool, 36 percent of U.S. shoppers reported that a package was stolen at least once within the past year, while 56 percent knew of someone who had had a package stolen from their doorstep.

The report also found that an average of 45 packages were delivered to consumers' homes, with 44 percent of shoppers receiving an item per week.

According to another report from Shorr Packaging, a packaging products, equipment, and services distributor, the shorter holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas will likely mean that more shoppers will use online vendors. In fact, according to Salesforce's Commerce Cloud, U.S. consumers are expected to spend about $136 billion in online purchases between 1 November and 31 December, 13 percent more than what was spent during that same period in 2018.

Shorr's survey respondents indicated that certain areas in the country are more likely to experience such theft: the highest were 22 percent in the Pacific (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) and 18 percent in the South Atlantic regions (Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia), while the lowest were at 4 percent each for the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) and New England regions (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont).

Whether or not shoppers have previously been a victim of package theft, some have taken measures to try to prevent porch piracy, with varying degrees of success. Roughly 64 percent of theft victims sent packages to an address that was not their residence. And while 46 percent of those who reported they had never had a package stolen said they changed their plans so they could receive their delivery in person, 78 percent of reported victims also made sure they could receive a package, even if it didn't need a signature. 

Out of C+R's responders, the most popular track of attempting to prevent future thefts was installing a doorbell camera, and brands like Ring and Google Nest have become increasingly popular. Although such methods offer the ability to monitor doorsteps 24/7 and record attempted thefts (which can later be shared with the authorities) and gave 82 percent of consumers some peace of mind, the cameras remain pricey, setting one back up to $200. Aside from individual's attempts to curb thefts at home, 44 percent of shoppers said that the delivery services themselves are not invested enough in preventing piracy.

In July 2018's edition of Security Management, Mark Tarallo outlined vast improvements in package security since the anthrax attacks of 2001 and an Austin package bomber operating in March 2018.

According to Dan Khasis, founder and CEO of logistics software company Route4Me, the time between delivery and the shopper retreiving the package is "the most vulnerable part of the entire supply chain," he said. Khasis recommended using crime rates and previous incidents in certain areas to determine whether or not deliveries are automatically tagged as ones requiring a physical signature. "Interactive mobile apps that warn drivers of an area's risk level when they enter it and a specific recipient's theft history are helpful tools," he added.