Reviewed by SafeWise security expert Rebecca Edwards
Around 210 million packages disappeared from porches across America over the last 12 months according to results from our recent survey of 1,000 Americans.
With people shopping online more than ever due to the coronavirus and easy shipping, those numbers will go up. To help you understand your risk, we surveyed Americans about their personal run-ins with dastardly porch pirates.
We also looked at the major metros where package theft runs rampant. Find out if your town is a porch pirate favorite or a place they tend to sail past.
Top 10 metro cities where porch pirates strike most
|San Francisco, CA||2||1||1||1|
|Salt Lake City, UT||3||4||2||8|
|San Antonio, TX||5||5||N/A||N/A|
How we rank the worst metro cities for package theft
To build our rankings, we analyzed 2020 FBI larceny-theft data1 from metro areas across the US. Then, we compare it to Google Trends data in areas with the highest number of searches for "missing package" and "stolen package."
We excluded any metro areas that the FBI marked as inaccurate reporting or where there wasn't data from the previous year. We combined some metro areas to fit Google's broader definition of metro areas.
While rating each metro area, we dedicated 50% of the score to Google Trends search popularity and the other 50% to the larceny-theft rate per 100,000 people. We normalized each measurement on a 0–1 scale—with 1 corresponding to the value that most positively affects the final score. Finally, we added the adjusted measurements together with the weights above for a score out of 100.
A closer look at the cities with the most package plundering
- Denver ended San Francisco's three-year streak at the top of the list.
- San Francisco remains a porch pirate favorite in second place.
- Salt Lake City moved up a peg to round out the top three for 2021.
- Two metros returned to our list after dropping off in 2020: Denver and Seattle. Both cities rank higher than their 2019 appearances.
- San Antonio and Portland held on to their positions from last year.
- Texas is the only state with multiple cities on the list this year. Austin dropped three spots, leaving San Antonio as The Lone Star State's worst metro area for package theft.
- At the bottom of the rankings, three metros are newcomers in 2021: Greenville, Raleigh, and Hartford.
Package theft stats for 2021
- Over 54% of Americans plan to shop online more than they did the previous year (based on our survey of 1,000 American adults). That's 20% lower than last year.
- 39% of respondents say they have packages delivered several times a week (up 12 points from last year).
- 72% of Americans say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more concerned about porch piracy (up 9 points from last year).
- Package theft happens even when you have security measures in place:*
- 58% of recent package theft victims reported using a security camera or video doorbell camera. Still, there's some good news: 34% said they caught the porch pirate on camera.
- 38% of recent porch piracy reports said they had a lockbox or package delivery locker.
- People are responding more strongly to package theft. Here are some steps victims of package theft reported taking after the incident:*
- 56% said they added a home security system after the incident (almost double the previous year).
- 46% say they alerted neighbors about the incident (up over 10 points from last year).
- 38% arranged for carriers to leave parcels in a discreet spot (up nearly 9 points from 2020).
*Respondents could check multiple possible responses
Why is the problem of package theft seemingly getting worse?
We asked Dr. Ben Stickle, an expert on criminal justice and package theft and a member of the SafeWise advisory group, about upticks in porch piracy. He says several variables are likely the cause:
"Package theft is a crime of opportunity. The more packages left for longer periods of time on a porch, the more likely they are to be stolen. As the Christmas gift season gets into full swing, there will be a significant increase in packages on a porch.
"Add to that, people are busier this time of year and have their routine shifted as they may work later and spend more time away from home shopping or visiting with family and friends, so packages are left sitting exposed on the porch for longer.
"Finally, while the volume of packages has increased, it’s likely the value of packages has increased as well, making numerous targets even more tempting.
"All of this adds up to easy targets for thieves. Porch piracy is a low-entry crime. There are no special skills needed to walk up a driveway and steal a package.
"What’s more, the risk is very low as well, and punishment, even if caught, minimal. Additionally, the media attention given to package thieves may draw more people into the crime as they’re made aware of the opportunity."
How do I prevent package theft?
What do you do if someone steals your package?
Precautions are a must, but sometimes packages get picked up anyway. Here are some tips from our guide to recovering from package theft:
- Tell package thieves to buzz off using the two-way audio in Cove’s video doorbell camera.
- Know when someone approaches your porch with a motion sensor that alerts you to sneaky package poachers.
- Catch porch pirates in the act with alerts from a Cove outdoor security camera.
- Make package thieves think twice when they see your “Protected by Cove” yard sign.
But you don’t have to stop at the front door. Cove has home security solutions that protect everything from the front porch to the back deck. Find out how easy it is to secure your home with Cove.
Who's responsible for stolen packages?
Until the package hits your porch, the seller bears responsibility for it. After delivery, it becomes your property and your responsibility.
Even though they're no longer responsible, many sellers and carriers may offer full or partial compensation for a loss, so it's a good idea to contact them to learn your options.
Package theft is a crime, but the specific charges depend on state and federal laws. If the carrier is the USPS, you're looking at a federal mail theft felony. But stealing a delivery left by a private company like UPS or FedEx falls under state laws like petty theft, grand theft, trespassing, and mail theft.2 In recent years, states like Texas have increased theft penalties to discourage package theft.3
Contributing writer: Rebecca Edwards
Related articles on SafeWise
- FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, "Crime Data Explorer: Expanded Property Crime," September 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed, "Do You Go to Jail for Stealing a Package?," June 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- Alex Leroux, KLTV, Gray Television, Inc., "New Law Raises Punishment for Package Theft," August 2019. Accessed November 18, 2021.