March 20, 2019

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'Porch pirates' could be targeting your doorstep for holiday packages

<p>Jen Botincan, an Osborne Village resident, had an order from Amazon stolen from her front door in the fall. It was a package with a box with a children's toy and a cat grooming tool in it.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jen Botincan, an Osborne Village resident, had an order from Amazon stolen from her front door in the fall. It was a package with a box with a children's toy and a cat grooming tool in it.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/12/2017 (454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Police may not be too worried about a significant “porch pirate” problem in Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean packages are safe from doorstep theft.

With the rise in online shopping worldwide, there’s a new type of thief that follows delivery trucks and roams streets in search of packages left on doorsteps. These so-called porch pirates have been reportedly growing in numbers all over the United States.

As for Canada, there have been a number of package-theft reports in cities across the country over the last month. A Calgary man was charged with theft under $5,000 for stealing boxes off a porch Wednesday.

“It happens everywhere, but I wouldn’t say it’s a significant problem here in Winnipeg,” said Const. Jay Murray, public information officer for Winnipeg Police Service.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/12/2017 (454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Police may not be too worried about a significant "porch pirate" problem in Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean packages are safe from doorstep theft.

With the rise in online shopping worldwide, there’s a new type of thief that follows delivery trucks and roams streets in search of packages left on doorsteps. These so-called porch pirates have been reportedly growing in numbers all over the United States.

As for Canada, there have been a number of package-theft reports in cities across the country over the last month. A Calgary man was charged with theft under $5,000 for stealing boxes off a porch Wednesday.

"It happens everywhere, but I wouldn’t say it’s a significant problem here in Winnipeg," said Const. Jay Murray, public information officer for Winnipeg Police Service.

Porch pirates are especially busy during the holiday season.

This year’s retail e-commerce revenue in Canada is sitting at almost $26 billion — up from $24 billion in 2016, according to Statista. Online sales are expected to account for seven per cent of total retail sales in the country this year, according to the online stats portal, which deems Cyber Monday the most popular online shopping day for Canadians, with Boxing Day in second place.

Murray said Winnipeg police haven’t heard much about thefts with that "particular kind of MO (modus operandi)," but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Prevent package theft

Click to Expand

- Schedule deliveries for times where someone is home to receive them
- Use tracking technology to monitor a package’s whereabouts
- Set-up text or email notifications for package arrival
- Use a parcel locker
- Set-up a signature upon drop-off requirement for receiving packages
- Arrange to pick-up packages at the local post-office
- Install security cameras, that work at night, to monitor deliveries

– With files from Free Press news services

It happened to Osborne Village resident Jen Botincan just two months ago.

Botincan has lived in the same "secure" building for the last year and said she makes online purchases about once a month.

When she ordered a Furbuster — a cat grooming tool — and a toy present for her nephew online in the fall, the delivery person left the Amazon package outside her apartment.

"I get home from work and the box is opened, sitting in front of my apartment door and just the Furbuster is missing," said Botincan. "What the heck."

It cost less than $10 while the toy was around $30.

She never alerted the police but reported the incident to Amazon and got a free replacement two weeks later.

Vi Davis, a North Kildonan resident, didn’t contact police either after a package disappeared from her porch.

A package containing a bracelet valued at $50 was to arrive at her doorstep in late November but it never showed up.

Davis found out the delivery was made on a weekday around 5 p.m. She said there’s always someone home at that time and their dog always barks at visitors.

"It’s costume jewelry but in all the weeks that it took, and arguing with Purolator, I felt almost criminal because it was like people weren’t believing me when I said I didn’t get it," she said. "It was just so frustrating."

The jewelry company ended up hand-delivering a duplicate bracelet.

"I don’t want to point fingers because I don’t know what happened," she said, adding the incident won’t stop her from ordering things online to her home. Davis said she rarely orders things anyway.

Botincan said her experience will influence how she orders packages though.

"I can’t do it anymore, I don’t feel safe to do it," she said. "I haven’t stopped placing online orders but I refuse to allow them to deliver to my home if I’m not home anymore."

Botincan now drives to the post office to pick up packages, which she said eliminates the convenience of online ordering.

"You don’t think you have to worry about that here," said Botincan.

"You see it in the States and you usually see it happen in suburbia, where things are just out in the open and anybody can drive by and see things, but you don’t expect it in a secure apartment building."

Porch piracy is growing in the U.S. to the point where it has driven a California police department to implement a bait program where police work with citizens to leave out decoy packages with GPS tracking devices inside.

Amazon has also recently launched a program where Amazon Prime customers can install an electronic lock and security camera in their home so delivery personnel can leave packages inside. Amazon Key isn’t available in Winnipeg yet.

"We take the security of the mail very seriously and do everything possible to keep it safe," said Phil Legault, media relations officer for Canada Post, in a statement. "We encourage anyone who witnesses suspicious activities to immediately report them to the authorities and Canada Post."

He said Canada Post doesn’t have data on thefts.

Canadians will receive more than twice as many packages this holiday season compared to five years ago, said Legault, adding the postal operator is experiencing a record-breaking parcel season.

"We have been delivering one million parcels a day since November 14," Legault said.

He said deliveries left at a customer’s door are a standard "safe drop," which is the common practice among all Canadian parcel delivery companies.

"The delivery agent will attempt to deliver parcels directly to a customer, but if the customer is not available to receive them, they will use their best judgment in making a delivery decision," Legault said.

"If the customer is concerned about potential theft they should look into what shipping options are available."

He said customers can request items are placed in a particular spot, require a signature for drop-off, use parcel lockers or have packages delivered to a nearby post office. Canada Post’s tracking technology also lets consumers know where their item is.

Const. Murray said Winnipeggers who shop online should have a designated area where postal workers can leave their packages — somewhere that is not visible from the street.

"That would probably be the most important piece of advice," he said.

Murray added police always recommend homeowners get surveillance cameras so they can keep an eye on delivered packages and if anything is stolen, they’ll have useful footage for an investigation.

With files from Free Press wire services

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 7:09 PM CST: Fixes various typos

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