One of the nicest benefits of living in today’s modern world is that pretty much anything can be ordered online and delivered to a person’s home. This allows people to buy things they want or need without ever having to leave the house. This ability is very useful. However, as with all good things, there are those people out there that have to ruin it for everybody.
There are always people looking to make a quick and easy buck, and that is exactly what porch pirates are. They take advantage of people’s orders being left out in the open and claim them for themselves. This problem only becomes more prominent as the holiday season draws nearer and people begin ordering more things online.
What Are Porch Pirates?
Porch pirate is a name for anyone who steals a delivered package from somebody’s front porch or yard. More often than not, these kind of thefts are crimes of opportunity. The person just happened to be walking, or even driving, by and they saw the package, or letter then decide in a moment to take it. They have no idea what could be inside, but they want it for themselves.
Of course, there are some people who have turned this kind of behavior into their day job. They will spend their days scouring through neighborhoods looking for unattended packages that are just waiting to be taken. They steal the packages and either keep the contents for themselves or sell them to someone else to make a profit.
Either way, one can easily see why this crime can be so distressing and upsetting for the victim, especially around Christmas time when the package could have been a gift for someone else.
Tips to Avoid Porch Pirates
Everyone wants to avoid falling victim to a porch pirate, especially during the holiday season. Luckily, there are a few different ways to reduce the chances of having a package stolen.
• Have a trusted friend, neighbor, or family member who is home during the day get the package off the porch while at work.
• Have packages delivered to work. If your workplace allows this, your packages will be delivered and watched over until you can pick it up.
• Make sure someone will be home to answer the door and receive the package. By getting it off the porch, it is far less likely to be stolen.
• Require a signature for the delivery. This ensures that the package isn’t left alone.
• Set up a security camera aimed at the porch to help deter thefts in the first place. If a theft does occur, their will at least be video evidence of the culprit and their illegal act.
• Some delivery companies, such as UPS, allow for customers to leave delivery instructions, such as hiding the package in a shed, instead of leaving it on a front porch.
• The USPS provides a service called USPS Package Intercept that allows customers to change delivery destinations before the package has been sent out for final delivery.
• UPS has a service called UPS My Choice that alerts a customer to a delivery the day before and allows them to change the time or location of the delivery for a small fee.
• UPS, FedEx, and Amazon offer services where packages can be delivered to secure locations such as an office, warehouse, or locker. This way the package is safe until the customer comes to pick it up.
Penalties for Mail Theft
Stealing another person’s mail is illegal under both federal and state law. United States Code (USC) 1708 defines how mail can be stolen, and then lists how states should punish offenders of this crime. In a very long and descriptive way, the law basically states that anyone who knowingly takes someone else’s mail without permission to do so is guilty of mail theft. This law also defines what counts as mail, and includes the following items:
• Mail bags.
Here in California, mail theft is a misdemeanor offense under Penal Code (PC) 530.5e. This law makes it so that people who steal mail, such as porch pirates, face the following:
• A max fine of $1,000.
This law also makes it so that people can be charged with other laws on top of this one. This means that a person accused of breaking this law could actually face harsher consequences as well.
Don’t Get Pirated This Holiday Season
The holiday season is all about giving, but porch pirates out there are only concerned with taking. Don’t fall victim to them. Follow the tips above to help prevent a porch pirate from walking off with a loved one’s Christmas gift this holiday season.
Have you ever been victimized by a porch pirate? Do you have any tips to avoid porch pirates that aren’t listed above? What about California’s take on mail theft? Are the consequences harsh enough, or does there need to be more of a deterrent against porch piracy?