You’ve probably heard of “Porch Pirates”, the catchy phrase used to describe criminals who steal packages from porches. There are plenty of gotcha videos about them on YouTube catching them in the act, and they always find their way in the news around the Holidays. They are increasingly of interest, as 43% of Americans have now had a delivered package stolen.
But who are these porch pirates, and how do they steal packages?
Quick answer? Package thieves don’t fit into a general category. Ben Stickle, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Administration at Middle Tennessee State University, did a study in which he and his team studied 67 YouTube videos in part to understand who package thieves are. Here’s a closer look at what the study revealed.
There is nearly an even split in gender with 34 men (49%) and 35 women (51%) identified as a thief in the videos.
Determining age was difficult, so the study only reported if the culprit was under 45 years of age or over. A whopping 94% were under 45, clearly revealing that it is a young person’s crime.
The predominant race of the suspects noted in the study was White, but there was a variety among all of the pirating incidents with 15% Black, 9% Hispanic, and 3% Asian.
The study also attempted to examine socioeconomic status by evaluating the offender’s appearance, clothing, and transportation. Based on this, it identified 20 people (30%) as lower status, 45 culprits (67%) as middle status, and one offender (1.5%) as upper status. One person (1.5%) could not be identified.
Yes, some package theft incidents are no doubt spur of the moment decisions that happen when someone walks by a house with a box sitting out front and they grab it. But more often it is a planned crime.
Many of these perpetrators follow delivery trucks and then strike. This woman in Vacaville, California hit countless residences, as reported by abc10.com
One homeowner who had videos of two packages stolen from his house two months apart noticed similarities in the crimes. Both times a car slowly drove around the neighborhood, when the package was spotted a passenger nonchalantly walked to the house, grabbed the package and drove away.
Porch pirates can be very crafty. In a reported incident at CNN, two women were seen stealing packages on surveillance cameras dressed as nurses in Washington state, according to the Kennewick Police Department. They were wearing scrubs and gloves and even draped a badge around their neck. The Kennewick police posted more about here on Facebook:
These incidents fit with the study’s findings that most of these crimes take place during the day when the thieves can see the deliveries on house porches that are close to the road. The study found that most thieves got away in a car, did little to conceal their identity, weren’t deterred by cameras or signs that the homeowner was inside.
Stickle’s study broke down the process for package thieves in terms of their approach, execution, and exit.
Interestingly, the study shows that obstacles like a fence, gate, visible cameras, or even cars on the property did not deter the criminals. Essentially, the approach lasts “as long as it takes the offender to walk or run from the property edge to the porch”, says the study.
Actually stealing the package only takes seconds, as no tools or specialized skills are necessary. Although warning signs and cameras would seemingly stop the thieves after arriving at the porch, there was no evidence that this occurred in the videos.
Leaving the scene was also very quick and with few interruptions. The study only showed two instances in which the thieves tried to hide the items upon exiting. In four of the videos, the pirate was interrupted by the homeowner while exiting the property.
At least one controlled, academic study of YouTube videos shows that porch pirates are split among genders, almost completely under 45 years old, predominantly White, and mostly form in the middle socio-economic class. Their tactics are varied, but certainly not well-planned or evolved. They often trail trucks or simply walk up and grab packages. They usually are not deterred by obstacles such as fences or cameras, and they usually have a getaway car.
Taken as a whole, it's clear that porch pirates are not sophisticated crooks, but ones who are seizing on the ease of opportunity. Packages are simply in plain site and easily snatched. It's clear that consumers, retailers, and shippers will need to find ways to thwart this crime. The most obvious and clear solution is to adopt lockable, package boxes like Adoorn, which can be placed on the porch and can store deliveries until they are received.