How to prevent 'porch pirates' – 6 security tips from experts

Don't let thieves take your Christmas gifts. Here's how to secure your packages and deter opportunist thieves

How to prevent porch pirates
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With a surge of packages arriving around the holidays, there's an increasing risk of so-called 'porch pirates' or package thieves targeting homes. To avoid this issue it is essential to take precautions by implementing some safety and prevention methods to improve your home security.

To secure your home for the holidays it's all about creating obstacles that make your porch less appealing to thieves.

'With the holiday season upon us, millions of people will be sending gifts around the country. However, many will never make it to the intended person. The more we buy online, the more packages are getting stolen,' says Dan O’Toole, CEO of delivery and pickup company, Arrive. 'The good news is some things can be done to help protect the packages from porch pirates.'

How to prevent porch pirates

'Always request that delivery personnel place packages in a less visible spot on your porch,' advises Mohammad Ahmed, founder of The Home Guidance Blog. 'You could also design a part of your porch with decorative elements like large planters or outdoor furniture to create a hidden drop-off spot.'

Mohammad Ahmed
Mohammad Ahmed

Mohammad Ahmed is an Interior Designer and Home Expert. He did his bachelors degree in Interior Designing at the University of Minnesota in 2013 and since then has worked as an interior designer in various companies, designing functional and beautiful spaces for clients.  In addition to his interior and exterior design skills, Mohammad is also Home expert with a talent for creating bespoke furniture and other accessories. He has been featured in popular publications such as Forbes, Yahoo, Realtor, Real Homes, Bustle, and Living etc. for his exceptional design tips.

1. Invest in a lockable dropbox

succulents planted around front door in Altadena CA

(Image credit: Catherine Ledner/Getty Images)

You can also establish a secure package delivery location, such as a lockable dropbox or a 'porch pirate-proof mailbox' where the packages are safely stored. In these, packages can be delivered but not retrieved, unless with a code or key. 

A metal mailbox with a lock, such as this VEVOR package delivery box, from Amazon can keep packages safe until you return and be incorporated into your front door design. 

Even if a determined burglar could open the porch pirate box, it would almost certainly be an effective deterrent.

For larger packages, that Genie BenchSentry coded lock box may be more suitable, however, these options are costly. While this may be the most effective method, other solutions are lower cost.

2. Install a smart doorbell

Smart doorbell

(Image credit: JUNG)

To enhance security, you can consider smart technology solutions such as installing a video doorbell or a porch camera that can act as a deterrent and provide you with real-time alerts when any activity is detected. There are dozens of these gadgets on the market, and they allow you to answer the doorbell or alarm from anywhere with mobile phone service.

While this is not a surefire way to avoid theft, it will help reduce it, with not only a camera but also a microphone so you can communicate with anyone approaching your porch. This can ward off porch pirates as well as meaning you can instruct delivery people where to securely place your package.

'Another benefit of using a security camera or a doorbell camera so you can receive an alert as soon as a package is delivered to your front door. Then, you can run home and put it inside or ask a friend or neighbor to grab it for you,' explains Rick Musson, a home security expert with Clearsurance. 

3. Use smart locks for secure delivery

front yard with plants and path

(Image credit: Yardzen)

'Some smart locks allow delivery services to place packages inside a secure location,' explains Mohammad Ahmed. 'This is a great way to keep your packages out of sight and secure.'

You can inform your delivery drivers of the code for your smart lock, allowing them access to a secure location. This could be a shed or side passage. These can be used in conjunction with security cameras with microphones so you can communicate with delivery drivers, ensuring they understand where to leave the package. 

Alternatively, some smart locks allow you to grant access remotely, allowing you to securely let them in from your location,' such as this eufy smart lock, from Amazon.

4. Landscape strategically

front yard with river rock landscaping and trees

Add plenty of crunch to your landscaping with gravel and river rocks

(Image credit: Simone Hogan/Alamy Stock Photo)

'Utilize landscaping to create natural barriers or to obscure the view of your porch from the street. Dense shrubbery or fencing can be both aesthetically pleasing and functional.'

Plant for home security with thorny plants, cover a fence or the delivery points with spiky climbers and avoid tall hedges that provide hiding spots. You can also incorporate stones that make a sound when walked on to further deter porch pirates.

5. Use strategic lighting

uplit trees and garden path

(Image credit: Mike Jarman/Alamy Stock Photo)

Use strategic garden security lighting to eliminate shadowy areas, removing the opportunities to be disguised. 

Consider installing motion-activated lights or stylish fixtures that serve the dual purpose of aesthetics and safety. These should ward off any unwanted visitors.

Security Light with Motion Sensor | Was $77.72, now $75.62 at Wayfair

Security Light with Motion Sensor | Was $77.72, now $75.62 at Wayfair

6. Implement package concealment furniture

front porch with both armchairs and couch, lantern, blue and white scheme, coffee table, pillows, wooden side table

(Image credit: Studio AM Architecture/Haris Kenjar)

'Consider adding a stylish bench with storage capacity or a large decorative box on your porch,' advises Mohammad Ahmed. 'These can serve as both aesthetic elements and functional spaces to conceal packages.'

We recommend this Maksville outdoor storage bench, from Target.

These can discretely conceal the packages. You can use a lock box inside a storage bench or table for an added layer of security.


What can I do when buying something online to prevent it from being stolen upon delivery?

'Make sure that packages are delivered to reliable people by requesting a confirmation or signature when placing an online order,' recommends Alyssa, organizing expert at Daphna Simon. 'Be aware that there might be a price associated with this option and that it might not be available to everyone.

'To keep track of the status of your package delivery, use package tracking. Enroll in alerts to ensure that packages are retrieved as soon as they are delivered, reducing the chance of theft.

'Additionally, you can deliver to a secure location, such as your place of employment, a friend's residence, or an Amazon Hub locker that is always open. For practical alternatives to standard delivery, investigate Amazon Hub services.'

What should you do if your package gets stolen?

'Report a missing or stolen parcel to the delivery service, shop or police if necessary. Present proof in the form of tracking numbers, invoices, pictures, or videos,' advises organization expert Alyssa at Daphna Simon. 'Reporting porch piracy helps authorities take action and prevents future thefts.'

Scheduling deliveries for times you'll be home or using tracking apps to plan your day around the delivery can minimize the risk. You can also coordinate with neighbors to collect packages or set up a community locker. 

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.