Can a Doorbell Camera Help You Foil a Porch Pirate?

Discover their role in reducing package theft — and other ways you can keep pirates from raiding your porch.


FEBRUARY 4, 2020

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Porch pirates sail through neighborhoods in search of treasure to loot. That treasure could include the freshly-delivered package you received from Amazon, your favorite store or your favorite aunt. In one recent survey, 36 percent of respondents said they’d had at least one package stolen in the past. The New York Times found that 90,000 packages disappear daily in New York City. One porch pirate in Minnesota recently left a thank you note for the “gift.”

Can a doorbell camera help prevent such plundering? It certainly can’t hurt.

A doorbell camera alerts you that someone’s approaching your front door so you can see on your smartphone who is there — and what they’re up to. If it’s clear there’s a potential thief on the premises, you can use the two-way audio feature to warn them away. You might even tell them you’re calling the cops.

Even if you don’t catch a porch pirate in the act, the device will record their crime. Many doorbell cameras, such as the SkyBell Slimline Video Doorbell from Brinks Home™, start recording as soon as they detect movement. The result: clues and evidence.

“We’ve been able to identify and arrest individuals using video from doorbell cameras,” said deputy chief Wilhelm Young of the Montclair Police Department in Montclair, New Jersey.

The mere presence of a doorbell camera or alarm company window sticker may deter some porch pirates — but not most. “These tend to be crimes of opportunity,” said Young. “An individual will see a package, run up and grab it without forethought. Even if there’s a sign to indicate there’s a camera present, they won’t notice it. And those who do check for a camera often cover their faces or keep their backs to it.” 

Still, according to Young, when it comes to package thefts, doorbell cameras are more helpful than not. This is especially true if multiple houses have them. “We’ve been able to track a thief’s movements by looking at recordings made from neighbors’ homes.”

· Schedule delivery for specific times. When this is an option, choose a time or window of time when you know that you or someone else will be home.

· Require a signature. USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL offer this option. There may be a fee.

· Have packages sent to an alternative address. Choose your office address, for instance, if your company doesn’t mind, or use the address of a neighbor who’s always home.

· Use Amazon Locker. You can opt to have orders from Amazon delivered to one of these self-service kiosks, which you open using a six-digit code.

· Rent a post office mailbox. Go to the United States Postal Service website and choose a PO Box that’s eligible for Premium PO Box Services and is large enough to hold the packages you typically receive. (If a package is too big, it will be held at the Post Office.)

· Secure a theft-proof bag to your door. There are several large, rip-proof bags on the market that feature a combination lock and can be secured to your door. Examples include the DropSak and the Package Panther. When you order something online you can enter the combination along with your address so the delivery person can open the bag and then relock it.

Want to make sure you get what’s coming to you? These measures should help. And a doorbell camera could boost the chances that a porch pirate will get what’s coming to them, too.

Maura Rhodes is an editor and writer who specializes in helping people live their best lives.

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