Tips for staying ahead of ‘porch pirates’ this holiday season


D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee had advice for people to make sure they receive the holiday packages they sent for.

With the holiday season coming, a lot of people will have gifts sent to their homes. And as packages are delivered, it won’t only be the recipient waiting for the dropoff — so too will package thieves.

“You can go down any street anytime and sometimes see two or three packages piled up, and that’s just a crime of opportunity,” said D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee.

In D.C., Contee said, package thefts went down a little last year, but the crime is still prevalent. Contee recommends that residents take steps to protect their deliveries.

“Track the package and sign up for email or text notifications; ask a family member or neighbor to pick them up,” Contee recommended.

Both Contee and Mayor Muriel Bowser during a news conference on Thursday said buyers can also have boxes sent to Amazon lockers or even P.O. boxes, which provide a secure place for packages to remain until they can be picked up. Contee also said people living in buildings should find out their community’s plan for handling the packages.

Michael Martel, a postal inspector for the United States Postal Service, said they offer several ways for shippers to safely send and receive packages, including informed delivery, which sends you a daily email about your mail.

“This is a service that provides you with images of incoming pieces of mail, as well as information about incoming and even outbound parcels,” said Martel.

USPS can also intercept packages upon request and change the delivery method and location if needed.

Cameras and careful neighbors

Another way to keep package thieves away is through the use of technology.

“Beyond having the plan, one of the biggest deterrents is having video cameras on the outside of your home or building,” Contee said.

The chief warned that installing a camera is half the battle; you also need to properly maintain it so it actually can help when the footage is needed as evidence. Keep it charged if it’s only battery-powered, and check it frequently to make sure it’s angled correctly and captures the area leading up to your home. Contee said camera systems also often run out of space to record video.

“You’d be surprised how many times we receive cameras, or we attempt to retrieve camera footage, and you’ll check and there’s no storage left on there,” Contee said.

D.C. offers a security camera rebate program for people willing to register their system with the police. Bowser said the program has helped install 26,000 security cameras in the city.

“We know that these security cameras have also been helpful in a wide range of MPD investigations,” Bowser said.

Finally, Contee said, it’s also important for residents and their neighbors to look out for suspicious cars in their neighborhoods, and to call the police if something doesn’t look right. The chief also encouraged package theft victims to report what happened.

Other tips for staying safe include locating safe exchange zones for buying and selling goods online. In D.C., the zones are located inside police stations.

“If you buy something online and agree to meet someone to exchange money or goods, please do it at safe exchange zones,” Bowser said.


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