Thieves targeting packages left on front door porches don’t necessarily steal more often during the holiday season, at least according to Sgt. Kevin Kilkenny of the Kansas City Police Department.
“It’s an ongoing issue, it’s not necessarily just Christmas,” said Kilkenny, who works in the Property Crimes Section of the Metro Patrol Division.
And yet, due to the increase in online shopping and holiday gifts delivered to customers’ doors, an uptick in conversation about how to protect precious packages for the holidays usually starts after Thanksgiving.
An estimated 23 million Americans have had packages stolen from their homes before they could open them, according to a 2015 report from www.insurancequotes.com. And without security footage or an eyewitness account, tracking down thieves is difficult for law enforcement.
“Usually we don’t have any leads to go on,” Kilkenny said. “It’s quite nice when we have a license plate or a description.”
The Kansas City Police Department apprehended just two package thieves last year — neither had targeted houses during the holiday season.
In Lenexa in mid-November, video surveillance captured a thief swiping a package from the front porch of a home.
There are important steps people can take to decrease the chances their packages will be taken from their porches, starting with making attempts to be home during delivery, or having packages delivered to a friend or relative who can answer the door.
Security cameras, as well as technology such as wireless doorbell cameras, increase chances that a thief can be apprehended, Kilkenny said.
Although some thieves may follow delivery trucks, Kilkenny thinks many randomly peruse neighborhoods for packages on porches. Some delivery services will accept requests to put packages on a back porch or behind a fence in a yard.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Pete Nowacki shared the following tips for protecting holiday packages:
Don’t leave delivered mail and packages unattended.
Just as wallets and purses shouldn’t be left on the front seat of an unlocked car overnight, mail and packages shouldn’t be left uncollected in mailboxes or on front porches for any length of time.
Consider an alternate shipping address.
Customers can arrange to have packages delivered to neighbors who are home during the day or get packages delivered at work, if permitted.
Change the package’s address — while it’s in transit.
Customers getting packages through the U.S. mail who know they won’t be home when their package is delivered can try USPS Package Intercept. Before delivery, most domestic package shipments can be redirected back to the sender, to a new address or to the post office to be held for pickup.
Customize the delivery.
If the package doesn’t fit in the mailbox and the customer won’t be home to receive it, the customer can provide delivery instructions online and authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified location. Visit USPS.com, enter the tracking number and select Delivery Instructions. Customers can also request their packages be left with a neighbor or held at a post office for pickup.
Plan ahead. Ship using Hold for Pickup.
When shipping packages, customers can choose the Hold for Pickup option and the recipients can collect the packages at their local post office. For customers receiving packages, they can redirect incoming packages to their local post office by selecting Hold for Pickup using USPS Package Intercept.
Going out of town? Hold mail at the local post office.
Instead of risking leaving a package unattended for an extended period of time, customers planning on being away from home for a few days are encouraged to take advantage of the Request Hold Mail service. Letters and packages will be held securely at the local post office until the customers return.
Secure the shipment using USPS Signature Services.
Signature Services help ensure the package ends up in the right hands by requiring a signature at the time of delivery.
Choose the most secure form of delivery.
For the most valuable packages, customers can opt for Registered Mail service. Registered Mail receives special handling from the time it’s mailed until it’s delivered, documenting the chain of custody.
Post office boxes might be the answer.
Customers concerned about the security of their mail can consider renting a post office box at their local post office. Many post office lobbies are open 24/7, allowing customers to retrieve mail on their schedule. (For packages too large to put in a post office box, many post offices have package lockers available so that customers can retrieve packages without a trip to the window.)