Christmas 2017 marks the first holiday season when Americans will spend more money online than in brick and mortar stores. Last year FedEx and UPS (not including the U.S. Postal Service) delivered more than 30 million packages a day between Black Friday and Christmas. This year is expected to have an even higher number of deliveries. Indeed, 70 percent of all homeowners expect to receive a package over the holiday season.
“We deliver about five to six thousand pieces of mail every day, just in Rohnert Park and Cotati during this time of year,” says Jason Luehs, Lead Sales and Service Associate at the Cotati post office. “That is close to double than at other times of the year, and it will continue to increase as we get closer to Christmas.”
With all these brown boxes coming to our doors, package theft is also increasing – particularly during the holidays. According to Package Guard, Inc., 11 million homeowners have had a package stolen in the last year and 74 percent of packages are stolen during the day when homeowners are at work. With the average value of stolen packages being between $50 and $100, it behooves online customers to be aware and follow safety advice to minimize the aggravation, expense and time of replacing stolen packages.
“We’ve had several reports of thefts of packages off people’s porches,” says Sergeant Jeff Justice with the Rohnert Park police department. “Unfortunately there are those people that look to take advantage of others and will drive around neighborhoods looking for packages left on doorsteps.”
First, be aware of when your package is delivered. Most online retailers send tracking information along with their order confirmations to allow you to see the exact day the package is scheduled to arrive. Even better is to set up alerts from delivery companies such as UPS, which will notify you as soon as a package lands at your door. If you are not home, ask a friend or neighbor to pick it up for you until you return home.
“Once a package is left on a doorstep, our responsibility is done,” says Luehs. “One way to ensure your package is sent securely is to require a signature. When you insure or register a package, it automatically requires a signature. Registering mail is the safest, most secure method. It’s best to use that for anything very valuable or irreplaceable. The package will not be in the normal mail stream and will be kept in a safe in the office.”
Luehs says that individuals can even write on the package they send “don’t leave on doorstep.” While there is no official policy with the post office regarding this, most mail carriers will honor this request and put a notice on the door for the receiver to pick up the package at the post office.
“Try to track packages and see that when they arrive, someone is home,” says Justice. “You can also have them delivered to a post office box, UPS store, or FedEx store, or to a friend or family member who is home much of the time and can handle the intake of the package.”
Some home monitoring systems including the relatively inexpensive Ring doorbell will send alerts to your smartphone when it senses any movement at your front door. At that point you can engage the camera and audio on the device and speak with the person at your door. Being “on camera” will often deter a would-be thief.
Another option to consider is having packages sent to your workplace, or using a package locker option. UPS offers access point lockers that allow users to securely pick up and drop off packages at various local businesses, grocery stores, and UPS store locations that make up the UPS access point network. All lockers are self-service and most are accessible 24 hours a day. There are several UPS access point lockers in the area, which can be found by searching on www.ups.com/dropoff.
Amazon also offers Amazon Lockers – a self-service parcel delivery service. Customers can select any locker location as their delivery address and retrieve their orders at that location by entering a unique pick-up code on the Locker touch screen. There are many Amazon lockers in Sonoma County, including one in Rohnert Park at the Safeway on Commerce Boulevard.
If shipping through FedEx, customers have a few options to help them keep packages safe. First, through FedEx Delivery Manager, package recipients can customize home deliveries to fit their schedules. They can change the time and location of a delivery, request a signature upon delivery and leave instructions for the courier such as asking them to ring the doorbell when leaving the package, or asking for the package to be tucked behind something to keep it out of view. Customers can sign up at fedex.com/delivery. The FedEx mobile app gives package recipients the ability to electronically sign for a package, or choose a hold at a FedEx location. A hold gives customers the ability to have their deliveries stored securely and free of charge for up to five business days at a FedEx location.
“All year long we work with our drivers and service providers to be aware of their surroundings and report any unusual activities,” says Adam Snyder, FedEx Media Relations Advisor. “And when customers use FedEx Delivery Manager, our drivers and service providers follow the instructions on where and when they want their deliveries made, which helps protect everyone’s shipments. Any customer who suspects that a package has been stolen should contact police.”
For those holiday shoppers who still prefer to shop in person versus online, the holidays also see an increase in automobile related robberies. Try to remove gifts and packages from your vehicle as soon as possible, and if you do need to park with them in the car, keep them out of view. And of course, always lock your car.
“People who look to take advantage know people do a lot of shopping this time of year,” says Justice. “They watch for people dropping off shopping bags in their car and walking away. Stay mindful and make sure packages are not in view. Make sure there aren’t people watching you and perhaps re-park your car after dropping packages off so would-be thieves think you drove away. Also keep in mind that it is easier to break a window or break into a car door, than it is a trunk. Also, people don’t just look for purchases but other things of value such as purses, bags, cell phones and computers – and anything that has the potential to have credit cards or money in it.”