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‘Twas a couple of weeks before Christmas, when the culprit sneaked up to a San Pedro home, snatched a package on the porch and ran off with the goods.
But a witness quickly caught the thief: an unlikely but rather anxious bushy-tailed squirrel.
The package was returned to its owner. The incident was caught on a home surveillance camera.
Not everyone is so lucky, however. As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, so too has “porch piracy” — or the pilfering of delivered packages.
Typically, according to FedEx, Amazon and other delivery and online companies, such issues are swiftly resolved.
But sometimes — particularly during the holidays, when timing is of the essence — porch piracy begets long-term conflict and disappointment.
Recently, nearly 300 Amazon packages were stolen from a post office in Amador County in Northern California. Indeed, the problem appears to be especially acute in the most populous state in the country.
Three of the top 10 metro areas in the nation most susceptible to porch piracy are in California, according to a recent report by SafeWise, an independent security system review site. The rating list was compiled by comparing FBI crime data with Google Trends searches for missing and stolen packages.
The watchdog site examined metro area package theft rates for the entire year, compared with holiday-specific theft rates.
The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area came in first, SafeWise found. Los Angeles and the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto area came in at ninth and 10th place, respectively. In these areas, the rate of theft was determined to be consistent throughout the year.
Other regions in the top 10 list were Salt Lake City; Portland, Ore.; Baltimore; Seattle-Tacoma; Chicago; Austin, Texas; and Denver.
Asked if SafeWise’s findings aligned with their own internal data, the U.S. Postal Service and Amazon either did not respond or declined to comment. Jonathan Lyons, a spokesperson for FedEx, also declined to provide data about reported package thefts. But he did cite a 2018 Comcast and Wakefield Research Survey, which indicated that “1 in 4 Americans has fallen victim to package theft.”
But he also noted that “there are steps our customers can take for added peace of mind.”
FedEx has instituted its own preventive measures, including having items shipped to alternative destinations, such as a relative’s home, one’s workplace, a FedEx office location or an authorized shipping center, like Walgreen’s or Albertsons.
To ensure that items are not left unattended, customers can also schedule deliveries at a convenient time or require a signature from the recipient. Specific delivery instructions can also be provided to FedEx drivers. “Do you like your packages left behind the big planter or tucked behind the grill beside the back door?” the company asks.
Some customers have installed surveillance cameras and video doorbells to keep an eye on their parcels, while a few law enforcement agencies have resorted to elaborate sting operations, using packages with GPS trackers inside, in an effort to reduce the number of thefts.
In Amador County, where some 300 parcels were stolen from the post office on Dec. 1, local authorities have no surveillance footage or witness information to go on. On the sheriff’s Facebook page, victims of the theft are encouraged to share their experience.
Through a post, Jean Michelle Morgan Ballard indicated that she’d lost out on nine packages of gifts for her grandchildren. Likewise, Victoria Cox Noble was waiting on three presents. When Cox Noble reported the loss, she said, Amazon gave her a refund. Still, she will not be able to replace the products, one of which was part of a Black Friday sale, because they are no longer available.
To date, only a handful of victims have come forward. Plus, “Amazon never reached out to us, never gave us any information,” said Amador County Undersheriff Gary Redman. As a result, the agency has been unable “to determine the level of theft.”
All of the stolen packages were taken from a post office that was closed for the day.
The delivery person, who was was hired through a third-party company, left them at the wrong place, Redman said.