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What National Day Is Today?

Today is National Package Protection Day.

With all of the presents delivered across the country, this is an excellent day to guard against porch pirates.

What percentage of Americans say they’ve been victims of package thieves?

A Collin County Police Department is accepting packages of items ordered online to prevent thefts from doorsteps. Instead of having packages delivered to homes, the Farmersville Police Department is urging people to send them to the police station instead. That way, law enforcement officials can keep your online holiday orders safe from thieves until you can pick them up.

Roger Nyhus’ gardener was working in his Seattle yard when a young man calmly walked up the steps to the house and stole a just-delivered package from the front porch.

The gardener “dropped her pruners and ran after the guy, and he dropped the box,” Nyhus said.

Nyhus wishes, for the gardener’s safety, that she had let the thief go. But he found the incident changed his buying behavior.

“Now I have all my stuff delivered to my office,” said Nyhus, who runs a public relations company called Nyhus Communications. “It kind of defeats the purpose of delivery.”

Of the nearly one-third of shoppers who’d had a package stolen, last week’s Xfinity Home survey found city dwellers experienced 42% of thefts. That compared with 26% in the suburbs and 19% in rural areas the study conducted by market research firm Wakefield Research, found.

Fighting theft

Most retailers deal with the problem by routinely re-sending products reported as undelivered with few questions asked. It appears to be Amazon’s ‘unofficial’ practice, though the company would not comment about it on the record.

This month it also launched Amazon Key, a program that allows Prime customers to install an electronic lock so delivery personnel can open it to drop packages inside, tied to a security camera that sends footage of the delivery — and the exit — to the customer.

More: New Amazon Key lets the delivery driver leave packages inside the front door.

It’s similar to a service Walmart began testing in September in which drivers not only drop packages inside but will also put the groceries away.

Amazon and others also offer lock boxes where users can go for pickups. Also, UPS and FedEx both have programs that allow customers to re-route packages to their offices or another site for safe delivery. They also enable customers to have packages delivered to nearby stores. These services are useful for people who aren’t home to take delivery.

How much care drivers take with their deliveries varies in the experience of Wendy Robushi, an artist in San Francisco. She says her UPS driver always rings the bell and leaves a note, but she hasn’t been as impressed with the no-insignia white vans that sometimes bring Amazon orders.

“I’ll look out my window, and there’s my package sitting down at the bottom of the stairs, but they didn’t even bother to ring the doorbell,” she said.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales representing up to 9.1% of total retail sales. Delivery companies are eager to find solutions that help make shoppers feel more secure when they buy online.

Worries about theft are holding some back. A survey by Shorr Packaging Corp. this year found that 41% of respondents don’t buy certain things online because they’re afraid the packages will get stolen, with electronics being at the top of the list.

Video deterrence

Home security systems, such as those from Xfinity Home, Ring doorbell, Nest and others, are promoted as one way to have peace of mind for home deliveries. Police departments don’t agree on whether they help.

The Philadelphia Police Department figures it’s a boon. It posts videos of almost every crime where they’re available, said Det. Linda Longo.

“You never know who’s going to recognize the person. Then if we get that person’s ID, we put out a warrant for their arrest,” she said.

In Houston, police on several occasions have used surveillance footage to track serial package thieves.

Spokeswoman Jodi Silva said they’ve had instances of thieves “going from house to house to house. They may be following a UPS truck. They’ll just jump out, see if there was a delivery and grab it,” she said. But in California, Capt. Gary Berg with the Campbell Police Department isn’t convinced. He could only think of one example of a thief being identified based on surveillance images and then arrested.

“People who are relying on the camera to protect their packages are probably kidding themselves,” he said.

Instead, the small Silicon Valley suburb decided a few years ago to take matters into its own hands. It now leaves out “bait” packages containing expensive items with GPS locators hidden inside of them on volunteers’ porches.

As soon as a package moves, the dispatch center gets an alert and officers track them. They’ve had multiple arrests.

“We wanted the word to get out that any package in Campbell could be a bait package,” said Berg.

The community is pleased with the outcome, though there were concerns about the privacy invasion of the would-be thieves.’

Berg squelched that. “There is no expectation of privacy when you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you,” he said.