With more than 1.7 million packages stolen or missing every day nationwide, according to a new analysis conducted for the New York Times, homeowners have been taking creative revenge on porch pirates.
The latest figures, published by the Times, were calculated by José Holguín-Veras, an engineering professor and director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems in New York (who was not immediately reachable by Yahoo Lifestyle). According to the report, those numbers result in more than $25 million in lost items and services.
But for customers, the financial loss, disappointment and inconvenience often leads them to exact revenge. Last week, according to NBC Nightly News, a St. Louis household decided to leave its thief — who had allegedly struck twice — a package of soiled diapers, courtesy of the family’s daughter.
"It just felt good to feel like we got some sort of justice,” the mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, reportedly said. A female suspect was reportedly arrested afterward.
Video: Local Police Combat Porch Pirates
Joshua Garnes of West Virginia has been the victim of porch robbery multiple times — over the years, thieves have profited off his Huntington home and the properties he remodels, stealing copper plumbing, cameras, cash, a porch swing and a package left by his door.
Garnes decided to rejigger a contraption (originally purchased from a company called The Blank Box) with a military trip wire that sets off a 12-gauge shotgun primer, loud enough to scare but not harm thieves. “The popping sound is loud enough to make your ears ring,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Over the past few months, the business owner’s security cameras have caught 30 people trying to steal the box and 50 people loitering around his property. “You can see them get mad when they pick up the box,” says Garnes. “One girl yelled ‘Goddamn it!’ and stormed off and a guy said out loud, ‘That was a good one, motherf*****.’”
Jaireme Barrow, the founder of The Blank Box, started his company when delivery boxes were continually stolen from his Tacoma, Wash., home. “I had been buying parts to modify my Jeep and saw through my camera that they were delivered but the box was gone,” Barrow, 36, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. After the third theft, he took action.
“I am too stubborn to have deliveries sent to my office and I wasn’t going to change my behavior to accommodate the thieves,” says Barrow, a former delivery man himself. “I wanted scare people with the scariest sound, which is a shotgun.”
When picked up vertically, the self-contained Blank Box releases a firing pin which hits the shotgun shells. Over the past few years, Barrow has sold 1,500 boxes, which retail between $40 and $90 on his website, including to NFL teams which Barrow says are used to prank rookie players.
Some police departments are aggressively stopping package thieves. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon runs a “Bait Package” program supported by volunteers who keep boxes outside their front doors with a sensor and a GPS tracker. When the box is moved, police receive alerts on their computers and dispatch officers to find it. The program gets help from the post office, which shares data on high-targeted areas.
“We’ve seen a 20 percent drop in package theft since launching the program,” Deputy Brian van Kleef tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
An Amazon spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that while the vast majorities of packages are delivered safely to customers, the company offers 24/7 help and a tracking system that includes following delivery drivers live on a map. Drivers can also take a photo of packages to prove delivery or customers can use Amazon Lockers, which are self-service delivery locations, for drop-offs and pick-up.
And a spokesperson from the United States Postal Service shared advice with Yahoo Lifestyle on how people can safeguard the more than 15 billion mailed items this holiday season: Hold mail at local post offices, instruct carriers to leave packages in specific locations, or utilize the signature confirmation feature for delivered items. The office also encourages people to report suspicious behavior, such as vehicles following a USPS truck.
According to Good Morning America, an Amazon driver in Boyton Beach, Fla., called the police after a suspect followed her delivery truck, then stole a package she had just delivered. And a police department in Round Rock, Tex., launched “Operation Front Porch,” allowing citizens to forward deliveries to its headquarters with a three-day pick-up window. GMA also reports that some states are considering new laws to persecute package thieves — for example, those in Texas face potentially 10 years in prison.
But pirates are getting ahead of the game. Wisconsin residents told local news station WISN that their stolen packages had been replaced by other swiped mail or empty boxes. “If you’re carrying a package into a house, maybe if a neighbor sees, they aren’t going to be so worried, as if you walk up with nothing and walk out with a package or two,” Jim Timmer of the Better Business Bureau said, according to WISN.
Still, some residents, like the St. Louis family using soiled diapers for payback, aren’t afraid to seek dirty justice. A few years ago, Destiny Skow of Spokane, Wash., heard about packages being stolen in her neighborhood. To make clear that her home was not a target, she wrapped up 17 pounds of dog feces from her English Mastiff and Chihuahua and left it on the porch, disguised in an old delivery box.
“We have eight home-security cameras that caught the person on a bike taking the box,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The next week, I was driving and saw the box discarded in an alley.”
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