The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

What is the value of goods stolen in home burglaries compared to porch package thefts? The answer might surprise you.

Americans spend a lot of money to protect their home from theft. That’s no surprise since there are 1,230,149 burglaries a year at cost of $3.4 billion. The average loss for each break-in is $2,799. No question these are BAD numbers.

Burglary is a crime with a history of thousands of years. Perhaps because of that long experience, many homes are protected like the castles we wish them to be.

The theft of goods from the front porch is a recent phenomenon coinciding with the explosive growth of e-commerce. For decades, the occasional package was left at the front door without threat. No longer.

Porch piracy is a crime of opportunity, and today there is plenty of opportunity. Just driving through any neighborhood, you will see packages outside many homes inviting thieves.

The surprising numbers

The number of thefts is a staggering 1.7 million packages every day and is increasing. The average loss is $156.82, less per incidence than burglary, but much greater annually in the aggregate than burglary: $25 million per day for package theft, according to an analysis conducted for the New York Times in 2019. That would value the annual loss at a whooping $9.125 billion, about 2.5 times the annual cost of burglary.

The odds are NOT in favor of e-commerce consumers. Porch theft is much more frequent than burglary. Recent surveys show 43% of online buyers have had one or more packages stolen.

Why do we let this continue? What can be done to stop it?

Convenience is the aspiration of online shoppers, and safe home delivery is the retailers’ promise. Neither can be fulfilled today because there is a missing component in the supply chain to the home. There is no safe place for consumers to receive packages without answering the door.

Misplaced security

Package theft numbers are worse than for burglary. We spend $900 to $1,500 for the initial purchase and installation of IoT connected home security systems and then an extra $15 to $60 a month for remote system monitoring. In recent years DYI home security systems have lowered the cost of home security for some to $300 to $840 to secure an average-sized home with a starter kit and additional sensors, and DYIers still spent an additional $10 to $50 per month for professional monitoring. These systems are a real deterrent to burglary.

A “smart burglar” (an oxymoron in terms) will select the home without deadbolt locks, window/door tamper sensors, motion sensors, cameras, loud alarms, and remote monitoring. Homes protected like a fortress are passed over in favor of those with unlocked doors, open garages, and unlatched windows.

Yet on the porch of homes, even those “fortified” and remotely monitored with sophisticated IoT security devices, we see packages and groceries waiting to be retrieved by a homeowner returning from work, errands, or children’s sports. Odds are the convenience they expect may become the theft they dread.

The incident is an anxiety ridden hassle, even if the seller replaces the stolen items. Amazon, for instance, often replaces stolen purchases at a very high cost, although retailers have no legal obligation to do so. Not every retailer will do this. Nor will groceries you requested to be left at the front door be replaced if they spoil.

Consumers need a device to receive their online purchases when they don’t want to be home to answer the door. What would that look like?

The device should be securely locked and tethered, with cold chain compliant refrigeration and freezer features for perishables, a compartment for packages, a camera to monitor deliveries, and tamper sensors to detect attempted break-ins. Most important of all, the device must be internet connected so retailers and couriers can schedule deliveries, be certain there is room for their goods, and receive unlocking authorization to make delivery – and the consumer must be able to receive notification of deliveries, monitor the camera and freezer/refrigerator temperatures.

About the author:

John Simms is CEO and founder of HomeValet. The company is developing temperature-controlled smart boxes that can be placed outside a home to securely store groceries or other items delivered in a contact-free way. HomeValet is conducting a test of the system with Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas.