Porch Pirates want to steal Christmas
The Porch Pirates are in overdrive. Their crimes are unfolding on doorsteps across the nation as Christmas presents, ordered from online retailers, arrive by the hundred of millions. And plenty are disappearing.
The thieves are totally legit villains now because they have an official villain name. Search Porch Pirates on social media, and you’ll see what I mean.
But some of the 26 million victims who say they’ve had boxes swiped from their porches are heroically fighting back.
They’re using booby traps, secret cameras, geo-trackers and bait boxes. The scenes of Good vs. Evil being posted online make for days of great comic-book reading, complete with shaming doorbell video clips of sneaky pirates, clumsy pirates, grandma pirates in flowery tunics, at least one pirate in a bra – even regretful pirates who’ve returned to the scene of the crime to leave an apology note.
And paid crimefighters are now in on the action, with police chiefs calling porch pirates the scourge of the holiday season and investigators setting up sting operations like the Fort Worth Police Department’s “Operation Grinch Pinch” or the police in Wheeling, W.Va., leaving snarky notes wishing the duped bad guys “Merry Christmas.”
But the doorstep vigilantes are the most entertaining. There’s a guy in Tacoma, Wash., marketing a device that sets off a 12-gauge blank the moment a pirate lifts the bait package.
One D.C. woman, fed up with having nearly $1,000 worth of packages stolen from her Capitol Hill porch, left an awesome present for her pirates – a box heavy with her two dogs’ poop. “It didn’t stop them, though,” Andrea Hutzler reports.
What did stop them was a Nancy Drew combination of sleuthing and teamwork after a porch camera spotted a white truck driving away, and a neighborhood email discussion group identified the truck and got the license plate. Police used that to track down the driver, who ultimately turned on the partner, Hutzler said.
That didn’t stop other Porch Pirates from swooping in.
How did she finally stop the thefts?
“We moved. We’re in Northern Virginia now,” Hutzler said.
My husband and I have been fighting this for years. The first time it happened was with an Internet router we ordered.
It was snowing, and the thief left footprints. We followed them, only to find the bubble wrap, the receipt, the empty box, then the road, where the prints ended.
The second time we thought we would thwart this by requiring a signature. The person who intercepted the package signed for it as “Cathy Lanier,” then Washington’s police chief.
Porch Pirating is not an easy crime to track because not everyone reports it. If you just look at the Google search for “Amazon package stolen,” as the folks at Schorr packaging did, you’ll see San Francisco at the top of the list, with Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland and Washington close behind.
A survey last year by video security company Blink found residents in North Dakota, Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Mississippi and Arkansas reported the highest numbers of folks who have had packages swiped. That map also looks a little like the opioid crisis map.
I parried with one of Amazon’s PR guys, who didn’t provide me any useful information – number of packages stolen, the monetary damage or what, exactly, Amazon’s policy is on replacing anything reported stolen. It’s a caseby-case basis, he said.
Porch Pirates are shoplifters. Shoplifters cost retailers about $42 billion a year. Stores have security guards and cameras, and they take the hit when something is stolen. In the e-commerce version, theft prevention is on us, David, while Goliath just shrugs.
Happy shopping. Don’t forget the booby trap.
BY PETULA DVORAK