Package Theft Season is Upon Us

Package left by USPS carrier on top of mailboxes
Package left by USPS carrier on top of mailboxes

Package theft season is in high gear. What if I told you, “Hey, you’re responsible for making package theft a problem.” – Yeah, you wouldn’t believe me. But you (and that includes me) are contributing. Packages are stolen because they are left in the open on porches by package delivery companies or the packages are left on top of mailboxes.  Yes, I am aware it’s against the law to steal. If you don’t want something stolen, don’t leave it unlocked in the open. Blaming the victim isn’t a popular stance to take, but I can take the heat.

Package in plain view on porch
Package left unsecured on front porch by UPS

What is the risk of a package thief getting caught? In North Seattle, it’s pretty damn near zero. We beef and moan indignantly on about the neighborhood going to hell, and this package and that package getting stolen. The overwhelming majority of those reports don’t get made to the police or the post office. Then there is the problem of the Seattle Police Department often won’t dispatch, giving a reason of “no officer available.” Add to that the SPD officer has to witness the package being removed from the porch, and you’re pretty much out of luck reporting the suspicious lady walking down the street weaving from house to house with shopping bags full of Amazon Prime festooned boxes. Even when a nearby jurisdiction North of here is busting druggies with rooms full of new stuff to fence, not a single person complaining about packages stolen from their porches will heed the call on to come forward and work with the police to ID their stuff. Dang! I guess we really are enabling this behavior on the part of the criminals.

Here’s a radical idea: STOP getting stuff shipped to your home. That’s right, I said STOP. Hey it’s not that tough. Here are some ideas for doing just that:

  • Shop Local – those neighborhood businesses that invest in our community, hire our kids and us, are aching for our business. Jeff Bezos’ business will survive, but the local shop may not unless we support them with our dollars.
  • UPS, FedEx and others have the ability to hold packages for pickup. Sometimes there is a charge, sometimes you have to create an account.
  • Ship the packages to a local shipping business like Sip and Ship or The Mailbox Ballard, or ….  Again these guys are local businesses investing in our neighborhood ….
  • Have packages shipped to your work instead of your home if that is allowed.
  • Have packages shipped to a neighbor who is home.
  • If you must patronize Jeff Bezos’ business, make use of the package lockers they provide for FREE.
  • Alert your neighbors if you have not heeded any of the earlier suggestions and you must be away from home. Make sure to reward them handsomely with drinks and goodies for their efforts on your behalf.

These ideas don’t help with the priceless family heirloom that gets sent unexpectedly from Great Aunt Mergatroid in Beulah ND, but will go a long ways. If there is less valuable stuff unsecured on front porches, the thieves won’t be able to sustain their habits and they’ll go elsewhere.

Does it do any good to call the police? You get the most likelihood of a dispatched officer for a crime in progress reported to 911. The dispatcher will decide whether to send an officer or not. Property crimes aren’t that high on the list, so they will not get much attention. Calling 911 is the sure-fire way to get the crime entered into the SPD’s computers. Seeing suspicious activity and calling the non-emergency line has an extremely low likelihood of a response. Posting on is great, but ONLY after you have made the call to the police – that lets us all know to be observant. If you get the text your package was delivered, and it’s gone by the time you’re home, then file an online police report of the theft. If you have keen observations about the patterns of thefts, maybe call the precinct, and see if you can speak to your community police team officer or a detective.

Does it do any good to install a surveillance camera? It might help the police to identify a previously known person. It might help neighbors be on the lookout for an easily identifiable person. I qualified that with “might” because most of the thieves are onto the cameras and are hiding their faces as they approach porches.

Finally, a bit of perspective, almost all cyber vendors factor in porch pilferage into the cost of doing business, and happily replace pilfered items. It’s just stuff and in the bigger scale of things, not all that important.