‘Porch pirates’ who prey on unguarded parcels are set to pose a major headache for shoppers across Britain in the run up to Christmas, with the problem growing year-on-year, MailOnline can reveal.
Opportunistic thieves are making off with goods potentially worth hundreds of pounds at a time after spotting boxes dropped off at homes by couriers during the day when their recipients aren’t in, postal industry experts say.
Freedom of Information requests sent to police forces reveal some constabularies are receiving multiple reports of parcel theft each day, with one in 10 households reporting the loss of a package last year.
The problem also gets worse at this time of year, with a quarter of all theft reports in the year to August made in November and December.
Of the forces that responded, Hertfordshire Constabulary reported the greatest number of parcel thefts per head of population: 73 per 100,000, or 877 throughout the year – equivalent to more than two thefts a day.
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Parcel theft is on the rise, according to a postal industry firm that collated data on reports to British police forces
The moment a thief stole Amazon packages from a home in Hampshire in September. The constabulary area has the highest rate of parcel theft
The map shows parcel theft data from the least affected areas (yellow) to the worst (blue)
Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, West Mercia and Lancashire also reported high rates of parcel theft, each reporting at least one parcel theft per day on average.
Cheshire, North Wales, Gwent, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire constabularies reported the lowest rates of parcel theft of the forces that responded to the request.
Some police services also detailed the estimated value of stolen parcels – with the highest average value of a lost package reported by central Welsh force Dyfed-Powys at £251.62.
Cambridge and Northumbria also reported the average value of a lost parcel to be over £100 – causing financial headaches for their true recipients.
Tech firm Quadient, which requested the numbers, estimates that parcel theft has surged 500 per cent since 2019.
Estimates it has produced based on data it received from the police suggest over 16,000 reports of parcel theft have been made in the UK in the year to August, up from 2,707 for the same period four years ago.
It hasn’t requested the data for nothing; the firm produces parcel lockers that people can send post to if they can’t be in to collect it during the 9-to-5 hours that most parcel companies operate in – and claims these would stamp out the problem of ‘porch pirates’.
Katia Bourgeais-Crémel, executive vice-president of Quadient’s parcel locker division, says the problem has been exacerbated recently by the cost-of-living crisis, with desperate thieves keen to make a quick buck.
But it has also been worsened by the fact that many people who would have stayed in to wait for parcels during the coronavirus pandemic. It says 22-34-year-olds – many of whom are now returning to offices – were most likely to report lost packages.
Ms Bourgeais-Crémel said: ‘The plague of porch piracy has intensified during the cost-of-living crisis, with nationwide parcel theft increasing more than 500% since 2019.
‘Unattended items on doorsteps are just waiting to be stolen. The number reported to the police could have increased in part due to better awareness of the importance of reporting.
‘However, when you consider more than one in ten households had a parcel stolen last year, porch piracy is clearly a big problem for businesses and consumers across the UK.’
Experts believe the cost of living crisis, combined with a return to 9-5 office work, is driving a rise in parcel theft
It has been suggested that delivery firms consider using parcel locker services to give people flexibility when it comes to picking up their packages
She added that shoppers deserve better from parcel companies, which need to embrace people’s work-led lifestyles and consider offering locker drop-off services.
Some couriers do offer drop-off services, whether at lockers or corner shops, but others will simply reattempt delivery until they give up and send parcels back to their senders.
She concluded: ‘This is leaving retailers and couriers spending time and money replacing stolen deliveries and adding strain to customer services.
‘In households that do their Christmas shopping online, retailers’ brand perception could take a serious knock if people are left without a present to unwrap on Christmas morning.’
MailOnline has reported on a number of incidents of brazen parcel theft in recent months, often committed in broad daylight.
Earlier this year a man and a woman were caught on camera in Holland Park stretching through a locked gate to drag a Victoria’s Secret package across the ground before wrenching it over the fence.
In September, Amazon customer Ben Palmer watched via his doorbell camera as a man brazenly ran to his doorstep, picked up packages and ran away.
Mr Palmer said at the time: ‘I thought it was brave that someone in broad daylight would do that. That they would jump out of a van and steal a parcel like that.’