By Scott Logue
The Foothill Communities Association (FCA) Crime Reduction Committee held its first meeting in November to address the gradual increase in nonviolent criminal activity in the greater North Tustin area, including the steady growth of porch pirating. With the expansion of lower cost security devices like the Ring doorbell camera, combined with neighborhood social media platforms such as Nextdoor.com, OC Buzz, Facebook and Ring Neighbors, the pervasiveness of petty theft is broadcast daily to thousands of phones in almost real time, yet little enforcement can be done about it.
With the rapid growth of retail services like Amazon Prime satisfying our every want and need direct to our doorsteps within 48 hours, porch pirating has risen ubiquitously, as pickpocketing once was. For the porch pirate, the booty is high and the risk is low.
The plethora of online videos produced and published daily expose this pirating activity. The perpetrators often appear as if they could be someone in your neighborhood -- a couple holding hands on a leisurely stroll, or, as in my case, the little old lady who grabbed my package and jumped into a minivan, slamming the sliding side door shut as it rolled away like Oceans 11. And her ill-gotten treasure? A book for my daughter. “What if everybody did that?” Indeed.
Sooner or later
There are two kinds of targets for these pirates: those who have already been a victim, and those who will be. The only approach to this growing problem is additional effort by individuals to protect themselves from the laziness, aggression, ignorance or stupidity of others.
The individual should consider official enforcement non-existent. Not because the police don’t want to, but because any rational exercise of the cost-benefit pencils into the red. Not only does enforcement rely on an appropriate level of punishment (of which there is none) that would alter such criminal activity (of that we can’t be sure), but the police engaging in any organized effort to squelch this activity, while being cheered by some, would be met with the predictable complaints, by many, that “there’s gotta be a murder somewhere that needs solving, and isn’t that a more important use of limited resources?”
Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to take appropriate measures to secure our own property from the ethical failure of others. No single countermeasure is going to suffice; for while a moat, a portcullis and a drawbridge are each individually impressive deterrents, combining them might be the right way to go.
A P.O. box is an obvious, though perhaps somewhat inconvenient, option. Nest, Ring and others make video doorbells with motion detectors, which alert your phone in real-time when someone is approaching your door, record the activity and upload it to a cloud. You can also talk to the pirate from your phone as he (or she, as pirating seems to be an EEOC hustle) reaches for your packages, and as many have done, demand that he put them back (with most complying). Flood lights with LED bulbs on sunrise and sunset timers help create an uninviting environment for those that would choose to operate in the dark, such as car door pirates.
Lockable mailboxes will help protect your mail as well as smaller packages. Amazon Lockers are everywhere, and there is probably one near your home or work. You can have packages shipped to your locker, and leave returns there for pickup. There is no charge to use the lockers and your phone is the key. Consider shipping packages, or at least the expensive or sensitive ones, to your work instead of your house, or to a family member that is home during the day and can secure them.
There are some things we can’t control, such as delivery drivers for UPS, FedEx and the USPS that don’t feel like taking the walk to your front door, and instead leave packages on your driveway, or at the top of your stairs by the street, or sticking out of your lockable mailbox (like my kid’s book). In those cases, the pirates will have the advantage. However, we could always choose to fire a broadside like Mark Rober did by building a glitter bomb package with cloud video upload and GPS tracking that caught some unsuspecting porch pirates off-guard and makes for great schadenfreude entertainment on YouTube.
If you would like to be a part of the Foothill Communities Association Crime Reduction Committee, please contact me at FCACRCVolunteer@gmail.com.