Ahoy, matey! Porch pirates on the lam in LA

Excited for your delivery package? So are thieves.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably bought something online at least once. While it is now easier than ever to shop online, this convenience might be offset by the hassle of making a police report when you discover that your package has been stolen.


Stealing packages before the owner receives them is so common that perpetrators have earned the slang name porch pirates.


Unfortunately for us, the numbers of porch pirates has been going through the roof recently.


One study estimated that 31% of all Americans had been victims of package thefts.


From 2010 to 2018, reports of delivery packages being stolen in the City of Los Angeles has increased from just two incidents in 2010 to 1,955 in 2018. Of course, with a base of just two incidents, we would expect such a significant increase (a whopping 97,650% increase).


Porch pirates are a relatively new scourge. So while the number of pirating has skyrocketed, that’s likely because the number of deliveries from Amazon and the like has as well. It is estimated that three out of four US online consumers shop on Amazon most of the time.


This piece is part of a new Crosstown feature, where we look at crimes that don’t always get attention because the reported numbers are relatively low. They may be uncommon, they may have fallen under the radar, they may even seem a little weird. But they’re important and interesting and we’re here to cover them. So far for the series, we have written about stalking and also about crimes that involve giving or taking candy from a victim. 


Over the past five years, almost every month had an increase in reported incidents of porch piracy in the City of Los Angeles. Package deliveries surge during the holiday season and, wouldn’t you know, December is also the month with the highest number of packages stolen every year. I guess that means that the Grinch isn’t the only one trying to steal Christmas.



Over the past nine years, 19 LA neighborhoods had more than 100 packages reported missing.


Two neighborhoods had more than 200 package theft reports from 2010 – 2018: Sherman Oaks with 215 incidents and Van Nuys with 205.  



The problem is so pervasive that some police departments are setting up decoys tagged with GPS tracking devices, and private companies are coming up with innovative deterrents, such as gun shot sounds that deploy when a package is lifted from a porch. Some people have also filled boxes with dog poop or glitter bombs.


Lawmakers are also cracking down. A proposed bill in the California assembly would charge anyone stealing a package from a home with a misdemeanor that includes imprisonment, making package theft a more serious crime.


For this year so far, we only have data for the first quarter, but there have already been 430 porch pirating incidents from January through March, 2019. 


How we did it: We examined publicly available LAPD data on crimes that included “suspect takes UPS, Fedex, USPS Packages” from Jan. 1, 2010 (the earliest available data) – Dec. 31, 2018. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.

LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.

Want to know how your neighborhood fares? Or simply just interested in our data? Email us at askus@xtown.la.