Worst Metro Cities for Package Theft for 2023

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'Tis the season for porch pirates, and these nasty grinches are as active as ever, snatching packages from porches across the U.S. 

At SafeWise, our goal is to bring awareness to the trends in your area and educate people because package thieves are on the prowl. We’re redoubling efforts and teaming up with criminology leaders like Dr. Ben Stickle to identify porch pirate behaviors and help people protect their packages.

To help stop these criminals and keep your holiday goodies safe, we’re happy to release the sixth annual SafeWise Package Theft report.

US map illustration of cities where porch pirates steal packages at the highest rates.

Over the past six years, we’ve talked to thousands of Americans about their specific experience with package theft. We ask them how much they worry about it, how often they’ve experienced it, and what they do to keep porch pirates at bay.

Our data shows no signs of online shopping slowing down, so it’s no surprise that package theft remains top of mind—especially at this time of year. To help you understand your risk and learn what you can do to protect your packages, we also consulted the leading package theft researcher, Dr. Ben Stickle.

On top of our proprietary surveys, we 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.

In this report

Graphic representing 119 million packages stolen in the past year; packages are displayed in a pyramid formation and each package represents 500,000 packages stolen

On top of ranking cities based on theft data and searches for "stolen package," we also talked to people in every state to find out if they're worried about package theft, if they use any security measures to deter porch pirates, and if so, what measures they use.

2023 ranking
Metro area
% worried bullet
% use a deterrent bullet
% don't use a deterrent bullet
Top deterrent used bullet
2022 ranking
1Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA67%78%22%Camera2
2Memphis, TN-MS-AR62%70%30%CameraN/A
3San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA63%74%26%Camera20
4Birmingham-Hoover, AL54%70%30%CameraN/A
5Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO53%78%22%Camera11
6Richmond, VA52%67%33%CameraN/A
7Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX69%82%18%Camera3
8Greenville-Anderson, SC61%73%27%CameraN/A
9Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI55%70%30%Verify deliveryN/A
10Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA57%67%33%Verify delivery7
bullet
Why did rankings change so drastically?

Because there’s no national database tracking package theft, we rely on a combination of Google Trends data and FBI larceny-theft numbers to rank cities.1 Last year, a city with fewer searches for recovering stolen packages could have rated worse for package theft due to a high larceny-theft rate, which includes all kinds of theft. The 2023 report emphasizes package theft concerns over general theft reports.

Porch pirate trends for 2023

About 35% of people we surveyed in our State of Safety survey said they lost a package to thieves in the past year. If you look at the entire U.S. population, that could mean over 119 million stolen packages. But three out of four people (75%) who've ever been a victim of package theft told us porch pirates hit them in the past twelve months, emphasizing the likelihood of falling victim to package theft more than once over time. The good news—that's fewer people than last year's Package Theft Survey when 79% who'd ever had a package stolen said they were hit in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Last year, we saw an estimated 113 million packages nabbed, making the 2023 estimate just over 5% higher. It may seem like there's no end to this Scrooge-like trend. But because package theft often affects people multiple times, the fact that those who've had a package stolen at any point in their lifetime reported fewer thefts in the past year is encouraging.

bar graph of percent of people surveys cities where they've had one package stolen vs people who had more than one package stolen in 2022.

Package theft by the numbers

  • 4 in 10 people who had a package stolen in the past year were hit by porch pirates more than once.
  • 71% of all packages stolen were valued at $100 or less—but if you pick $50 as an average loss, we estimate up to $6 billion in losses.
  • 2023’s estimated losses are 5% higher than in 2022.
  • Over half of all stolen packages were delivered by Amazon.
Why 2023 estimates are lower than what was reported in 2022

Last year we estimated the number of packages stolen based on our 2022 Package Theft survey of people who had experienced a package theft at any point in their lives. That number resulted in an exaggerated picture of package theft numbers. This year, we estimated the number of packages stolen based on our State of Safety study that surveys 5,000 Americans each year about their concerns and experiences with crime. Because the State of Safety survey includes people from every state who may or may not have ever had a package stolen, estimates based on that data are more representative of the overall U.S. population.

image of a house with a person dressed in a black hoodie walking away with packages, with a pirate flag, showing that an estimated $6 billion is lost to porch pirates every year.

Value of packages stolen

Year
Under $50
$50–$100
$101–$200
$201–$500
Over $500
202333%38%19%8%2%
202232%40%18%9%1%
202120%25%25%17%13%
202026%39%21%9%5%
Graphic representation showing that 65% of people are more worried about package theft today than they were one year ago. There are 100 dots with 65 being highlighted to show the percentage of the population.

Concerns about package theft

  • Over 65% of Americans are more worried about package theft than they were a year ago.
  • 1 in 2 survey respondents told us they worry about package theft happening to them on a daily basis.
  • Texas, Washington, Nevada, and California worry the most about package theft.
  • Despite high concern, almost 4 in 10 of those who had a package stolen didn’t have any security or preventive measures in place.
Graphic image showing the top 3 things people did after getting. package stolen. There are three blocks showing each action taken: talking to neighbors, making different delivery arrangements, and adding a security camera or security system.

What people are doing after porch pirates strike

  • Nearly 8 in 10 said they added some deterrent or preventive measure after having a package stolen.
  • After having a package stolen, 35% reached out to neighbors, 35% started to make arrangements for delivery people to leave packages in a discreet location, and 23% added a security system or camera.
  • 21% reported the theft to law enforcement.
  • 9% made an insurance claim.
bar chart of packages stolen by carrier (amazon, fedex, USPS, UPS, grocery delivery, hello fresh) showing that amazon packages are stolen the most at 55.5%.

Recovering package theft loss

  • 47% received a replacement item from the seller.
  • 37% received a refund from the seller.
  • 15% received a refund from the carrier who delivered the package.
  • 6% told us they recovered the package from the thief.

Ask the expert: Is package theft 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.

A crime of opportunity

"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.

More packages means more problems

"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. Additionally, the value of packages may increase during the holidays, due to gift-giving.

"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.

Package theft is a low-risk crime

"What’s more, the risk is very low as well, and punishment, even if caught, is minimal. Additionally, the media attention given to package thieves may draw more people into the crime as they’re made aware of the opportunity."

bullet
Is stealing a package a crime?

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

Current state package theft laws

State
Type of crime
Penalty
Status
ArkansasFelonyUp to 6 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2021
CaliforniaMultiple proposals from misdemeanor to felonyVariesProposed or dead
GeorgiaFelonyUp to 5 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2021
KansasNon-person felonyUp tp 12 mos. incarcerationProposed
KentuckyFelony1 to 5 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2022
MichiganMisdemeanor to felony Up to 5 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2019
MissouriMisdemeanor to felony Up to 4 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2023
OklahomaMisdemeanor to felonyUp to 5 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2020
New JerseyThird-degree crime3 to 5 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2022
New YorkNon-violent felony3 to 15 yrs. incarcerationProposed
South CarolinaFelonyMin. 5 yrs. incarceration (under review)Proposed
TennesseeFelonyUp to 6 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2021
TexasFelony6 mos. to 10 yrs. incarcerationEnacted 2019
Graphic representing 4 in 10 people who don't do anything to protect their packages. There are 10 dots representing people and 4 are highlighted red to show the ratio.

How to prevent package theft

There are many things you can do to help deter porch pirates, but these five tips are my essential guide to keeping your packages out of the hands of thieves.

1. Opt into delivery alerts. You can get alerts from both retailers and shippers to track the movements of your packages and know the moment they’re delivered. Apps like Shop (my favorite) help you track deliveries and online purchases from any retailer all in one place.

2. Require signatures. This ensures that your package won’t be left on the front porch unattended—especially valuable items. Requiring a signature means your goods will end up in a human’s hands, not dropped on a porch or in front of a door.

3. Make alternative arrangements. If you can’t be home to bring in those packages, have them delivered somewhere else. You can use a package locker service (like Amazon), ask a friend or neighbor, use a personal delivery locker on your porch, or ask that the package be held at the carrier’s depot for you to pick up in person.

bullet
SafeWise Expert Tip

Last year, I saw a lot of local businesses (like microbreweries) and police departments across the country setting up shop as safe holiday package delivery spots. This means a real person will receive and secure your goodies until you can come pick them up. Do a search to see what may be available where you live.

4. Use technology. Doorbell cams, outdoor security cameras, and full-on security systems can keep you in the know about what’s happening in front of your home and with your packages. I recommend tech that does more than capture a clip of a bad actor stealing your stuff. Look for two-way talk, customized recorded messages, flashing lights, alarming sounds, sirens, and professional monitoring.

5. Work with your neighbors. More porch pirates are working together to grab as much as they can from entire neighborhoods. Check in to see if anyone has had a package stolen and make a plan to work together to keep an eye out for unusual cars, unfamiliar people, and sketchy security cam footage.

Video: Package Theft is Getting Worse, Here's What You Can Do About It

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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:

  • File a police report. Don't forget to share security footage if you have it.
  • Contact the sender. Many retailers will send a free replacement but may ask for proof of loss.
  • Contact the carrier. You can file claims online for FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
circular pie chart of percent breakdown of what happened after their package got stolen, with 47% of people reporting they got a replacement from the seller vs 37% got a refund from the seller and 15% got a refund from the carrier that delivered the package.

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.

How we rank the worst metro cities for package theft

To build our rankings, we analyzed FBI larceny-theft data1 from metro areas across the US (the most current data available as of ranking). Then, we compared it to Google Trends data in areas with the highest number of searches for "missing package" and "stolen package."

Larceny-theft data and populations for metros were pulled from the FBI NIBRS Estimate tables. Google Trends numbers were pulled for the phrases "stolen package" and "missing package" for the date range 9/26/2022 – 9/26/2023. Scoring was then created by using the same scoring technique from the 2022 data with the addition of scoring for the phrase "missing package” given a third of the weight of the 2022 Google trend weight and "stolen package” given two-thirds the weight of the 2022 trend.

Any metros not reported were either excluded from the FBI estimation tables due to lack of participation in the FBI NIBRS reporting system, or data was suppressed based on NIBRS Estimation suppression rules.

SafeWise Package Theft Survey
The 2023 SafeWise Package Theft Survey used a 13-question online survey fielded in October 2023 using Pollfish. We collected responses from 1,000 respondents across the U.S who’ve had a package stolen at some point in their lifetime. The survey asked participants about their first-hand experiences with package theft.

Respondents were then asked explicitly about their experiences with package theft in the 12 months prior to the survey, including if they experienced it multiple times, the average cost of stolen packages, and any methods employed to prevent package theft before and after experiencing a theft. 

Pollfish survey methodology
Pollfish employs a survey methodology called Random Device Engagement (RDE) to reach a vast audience without using monetary incentives. RDE is an evolution of Random Digit Dialing (RDD) and operates within popular mobile apps. This approach leverages a neutral environment similar to RDD and targets users who aren't intentionally participating in surveys.

SafeWise State of Safety survey methodology
The State of Safety is a nationwide survey that dives into America’s top safety concerns. Over the past five years, we’ve surveyed more than 25,000 Americans—at least 500 from every state—to find out about their perceptions and attitudes about safety and crime. The most recent State of Safety survey was fielded January 9 – 24, 2023, by Lux Insights. Lux surveyed 5,000 residents across the U.S. (at least 100 in each state) and based on the number of completes, there is a margin of error (MOE) of ±1.4%. Each state has an MOE of approximately ±9.8%.

One section of the survey is devoted to package theft, focusing on experience with and concern about it over the 12 months prior to the survey. Using the survey results as a representative sample of the U.S. population, estimates for the overall number of packages stolen and the value of lost items were extrapolated to represent the impact of package theft across the nation. Read the full methodology.


Sources

  1. FBI Crime Data Explorer. Accessed November 14, 2023.
  2. Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed, "Do You Go to Jail for Stealing a Package?," June 2021. Accessed November 14, 2023.
  3. Alex Leroux, KLTV, Gray Television, Inc., "New Law Raises Punishment for Package Theft," August 2019. Accessed November 14, 2023.
  4. 2022 scoring methodology: While rating each metro area, we dedicated 75% of the score to Google Trends search popularity and the other 25% 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.

February 13, 2023 Editorial note: This article previously stated that "three out of four people we surveyed said they lost a package to thieves in the past year." This statement should be clarified to say that three out of four people who've ever had a package stolen had one taken in the past year—not three out of four of all Americans.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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