Home Surveillance and Porch Piracy

The holiday season brings a surge in festive decorations, joyful celebrations, family gatherings and of course, retail sales. But as online shopping becomes increasingly popular, the crime of “porch piracy” is surging, as well.

Porch piracy is the act of stealing packages from the front porches of homeowners after they’ve been delivered, and it’s becoming a lucrative form of theft for criminals. While some thieves just drive around checking porches, some have taken to following delivery trucks through residential areas. As soon as the driver leaves a package, the thief pulls up and grabs it.

Recently in the news, a California homeowner caught a porch pirate on his home surveillance system, backing a U-Haul truck into his driveway and taking two packages from his porch. The footage gave police enough information to track down the thieves, and led them to an apartment filled with stolen merchandise. Those thieves were professionals, but even casual theft is a problem: door cameras have recorded packages taken by a woman pushing a baby in a stroller, a door-to-door salesman, and other passers-by.

Delivery drivers often try and conceal packages if there is an easy way to do so, but since that cannot be guaranteed, it’s up to the homeowner to be proactive with their deliveries. So how do you thwart a porch pirate? A popular method has been to give delivery drivers a “secret” place to deposit your packages, such as behind a bush or around the side of the house so they aren’t visible at the front door. However, thieves who are scoping out victims by watching delivery drivers will see these locations as easily as if they were left on the porch. There are other, safer alternatives to protecting your property:

  • If you are at work during the day and your employer allows it, have the package delivered to your office.
  • If you have a trusted friend or family member who is home during the day, have it delivered to his/her home instead.
  • Utilize carrier apps that offer delivery windows, and arrange to be home during the window to receive your package.
  • Install a lockbox for your deliveries, such as a Landport, which is basically a giant footlocker that bolts to your porch and cannot be accessed without a code. Share the code with your delivery driver(s) and they can leave your packages sealed and safe.
  • Request to sign for your package. If you are not home to receive it, the courier will take it back to their warehouse. You can also ask up front to have the package held at the warehouse so you can pick it up. It takes some extra time and effort from you, but at least you’ll be guaranteed to receive your merchandise!
  • In San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City, a new company called Doorman allows you to have packages delivered securely to their warehouse, and you can set a time between 6pm and midnight for them to bring it to you. As the popularity of online shopping continues to rise, companies of this type will likely spring up in other cities.

Manitou’s Video Control Center supports nearly 60 integrated video technologies; including video verified, streaming video, and hosted video solutions. This offers exceptional home surveillance options, but homeowners should be prepared to take extra precautions. Utilizing a home surveillance system may deter a thief from taking your merchandise, but only if they see the camera and decide to move on. While surveillance footage has helped law enforcement identify and apprehend some criminals, it certainly isn’t a guarantee against theft. Victims of porch piracy often have little or no recourse if the courier has documented that the package was delivered. So plan ahead when online shopping to ensure your holiday celebrations aren’t spoiled by porch pirates!