A Reopening Economy Has Meant Slightly Lower Package Theft
Continued Research Finds Package Theft at Lowest Rate Since Beginning of Pandemic
Theft is the most common type of crime in the U.S., with millions of individuals and households experiencing it every year. While it doesn’t result in loss of life or injury, this crime of convenience can make people feel less secure in their own homes.
Our research over the past few years into one particular type of theft — package theft, commonly called porch piracy — has consistently shown that about 40 percent of adults have fallen victim to package theft at least once in their lifetime.
But after climbing considerably over the pandemic and surging during the holiday season, our most recent findings show there may be some cause for celebration when it comes to porch piracy. Our most recent research highlights experiences with package theft and porch piracy in 2021.
- Package theft has cooled somewhat since the pandemic-related surge in the spring and summer of 2020, but our research indicates that about 21 million U.S. households have experienced package theft in the past three months.
- Home security system purchases have exploded over the past year, and while our research didn’t indicate that the presence of doorbell cameras or other security devices made porch piracy less common, such products do seem to have an impact on whether people reported these crimes to police.
- Apartment dwellers are considerably more likely to have experienced package theft than those living in houses and mobile homes. About 56 percent of people living in apartments said they’d fallen victim to package theft at some point, compared to just 35 percent and 29 percent of house and mobile home dwellers, respectively.
How Common is Package Theft in 2021?
Our research on porch piracy began just before the 2019 winter holiday season, and we’ve consistently found that about 40 percent of U.S. adults have had a delivered package stolen at some point in their lives.
While package theft at any point has remained pretty steady, our summer 2021 research indicates that recent thefts are becoming less common. This could suggest that package theft surged during the height of the pandemic and is receding.
|Percentage experiencing package theft, ever vs. recent|
* Recent = previous three months
Do Security Systems Impact Package Theft?
About 42 percent of people who told us they had experienced a package theft in the past three months reported the incident to police, which means that well over half of people who have recently been victimized by porch pirates haven’t involved law enforcement.
One potential reason for people not reporting package theft to police is that most of the items being stolen aren’t all that valuable. Just over half (54 percent) of items stolen in recent package thefts were worth less than $50, while only 11 percent were valued at more than a hundred bucks. That could indicate that people are hesitant to have highly valuable items shipped to their homes and that if those items are stolen, it may not be worth their time to file a police report.
Our past research and other industry findings have consistently shown that the presence of home security systems and doorbell cameras help deter break-ins, but data on their effect on porch piracy is more limited.
However, our most recent findings seem to indicate that those who have doorbell cameras or other home security systems may feel they are armed with the type of evidence that could help find porch pirates. While only 42 percent of all package theft victims reported the crimes to police, that number rose to nearly 50 percent for victims who have doorbell cameras or home security systems.
What Factors Predict Package Theft?
Like all types of property crime, porch piracy is a crime of convenience. Thieves see the chance to make a quick buck or take advantage of a potential victim without even having to turn a doorknob. In residential settings like apartment buildings and condos, where deliveries are often left in hallways or lobbies, package theft is even easier.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that apartment and condo dwellers are considerably more likely to have experienced package theft than those living in houses. Notably, those living in mobile homes were the least likely to say they’d ever had a package stolen.
|Percentage who have ever had package stolen by residence type|
|Senior living community||43%|
Age was also strongly correlated with having been the victim of package theft, with younger people more than twice as likely as people at or near retirement age to say they’d ever experienced package theft. More than one in two people under the age of 45 have fallen victim to package theft, while just under one in five people over 60 said the same. This phenomenon is likely related to the fact that young people are more likely to shop online and have items delivered, and young people generally are more likely to live in apartments.
|Percentage who have ever had package stolen by age group|
Similarly, household income was relatively predictive when it comes to package theft. Those with annual household income of less than $50,000 had the highest rate of having experienced porch piracy at some point in their lives. In addition to being more likely to rent, lower income households are disproportionately located in high-crime areas.
What Can Consumers & Businesses Do to Combat Porch Piracy?
Few of the people who told us they’d experienced package theft in the past few months chose not to do anything about it. The steps they took to lower their risk were many, but the most common included installing doorbell cameras, ensuring someone was present for expected deliveries, and opting for package tracking.
|Steps taken after recent package theft*|
|Made sure to be home during delivery window||36%|
|Curbside or in-store pickup instead of delivery||26%|
|Shipped to another location||25%|
|Home security system||15%|
|Contactless in-home or in-garage delivery||14%|
* Recent represents those who have ever had package theft who reported one in the previous three months
As for how delivery companies can help consumers lower their risk of package theft, ensuring recipients’ instructions are followed was the most commonly cited method (39 percent), though 13 percent of all respondents said there’s nothing businesses can do to effectively tackle this issue. Among notable recommendations listed by those who selected “other” were always requiring signatures and using lockboxes when they’re available.
|Suggestions for reducing package theft|
|Always follow delivery instructions||39%|
|Make it easier to change delivery time and location||26%|
|Nothing will help prevent package theft||13%|
|Add option for contactless delivery into home/garage||12%|
|Place package out of sight||2%|
|Ring doorbell or knock||2%|
|Better notifications by text||2%|
As long as package theft remains a low-risk, high-reward crime, it’s likely to remain quite common, and our research has consistently shown that about two in five U.S. adults have fallen prey at some point. However, our findings also indicate that increased awareness of the issue could be helping to chip away, as consumers take steps to safeguard their purchases.
We surveyed nearly 700 U.S. adults in June 2021, and the results of our online survey were Census-balanced for age and gender.
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