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Paul Bianchina: Deterring 'porch pirates'

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This image taken from video shows an Amazon package containing a GPS tracker on the porch of a Jersey City, N.J. residence after its delivery Dec. 11. [AP FILE PHOTO]
This image taken from video shows an Amazon package containing a GPS tracker on the porch of a Jersey City, N.J. residence after its delivery Dec. 11. [AP FILE PHOTO]

Porch pirates cruise neighborhoods looking for targets of quick and easy opportunity: all those tempting boxes and envelopes left sitting out on front porches, just asking to be grabbed.

Short of sitting on the front step waiting for the delivery driver, what can you do about it?

Here are some suggestions.

A few simple steps

Track your packages: This is a simple first step, and something you should always be doing. The Post Office, UPS and FedEx all issue tracking numbers when a package is shipped, and it’s a simple matter of using that tracking number to follow the course of your package’s journey so you know when to expect it. You can ask that email or text alerts be sent to you, and you can also post specific instructions for where a delivery is to be placed if you’re not home.

Deliver the package elsewhere: Consider having packages delivered to your workplace, or to a neighbor’s who you know will be at home to receive it. Or, while it defeats the convenience of home delivery, you also can have packages held at UPS or FedEx for later pickup (or later delivery), or if you’re shopping with Amazon, you can have it delivered to a secure Amazon delivery site in your area, such as a Whole Foods Market.

Out of sight, out of mind: Build or designate a package delivery area, and let your local delivery drivers know where you want the packages delivered. For example, you might want to buy or build a nice bench for your front porch with a lift-up top that will act as a storage bin for packages. There are pedestals for your mailbox that the mail carrier can drop packages into, and only you can access with a key. Or simply direct your delivery driver to leave packages behind the garage, in a storage shed or in another concealed area that’s not readily visible to someone driving by.

BoxLock Smart Padlock

Once you’ve installed a secure box on your porch or front deck, consider taking the next step to secure your packages and lock the box up with a BoxLock Smart Padlock ($129, www.getboxlock.com).

The BoxLock is a super sturdy Wi-Fi-enabled padlock that contains a built-in scanner. First, you lock up your storage box with the BoxLock just like you would with a normal padlock. It works with just about any type of storage box that has a standard padlock hasp on it (you can chain or bolt the box or bench in place for added security if desired).

When a package is delivered, the delivery driver uses the scanner on the bottom of the BoxLock to scan the barcode on the package’s shipping label, which unlocks the lock. The driver then simply puts the package in the storage box, and relocks the lock. You’ll automatically receive a text message, as well as an email letting you know that the package has been delivered.

The BoxLock has a hardened steel shackle, weatherproof outer casing and a tamper-resistant zinc interior. Its internal rechargeable battery is rated to last up to 30 days between charges. Complete instructions for programming the BoxLock come with the unit. On the downside, you’ll need to educate your delivery drivers on the BoxLock’s use, at least the first time, since its effectiveness is pretty much dependent on their cooperation.

Security cameras

Another alternative to consider is some type of outdoor security camera, and there are plenty on the market to choose from. A security camera won’t stop the porch pirate from stealing a package, although its mere presence may be a deterrent, but it may help you identify the thief and prevent further thefts in the future, especially if you’re working in concert with other neighbors.

Perhaps the most popular of these is the Ring family of products ($99 and up, www.ring.com). Ring offers doorbells with built-in cameras, motion detector cameras, security lighting, monitoring services and more. Many of their products are wireless and are ideal for DIY installation.

One of the things that a security camera can help you with is allowing you to see when something has been delivered, because you may not be aware of it even if you’re home. Because one of the most important things you can do to help thwart thieves is to bring your packages inside as soon as they’re delivered.

Have a home repair or remodeling question for Paul? He can be reached by email at improvingyourhome@ykwc.net .

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