Unfortunately, theft of packages left by FedEx, UPS, and USPS on your doorstep or porch is a persistent problem on Capitol Hill, as it is in many other urban areas, especially around the holidays. Some “porch pirates” even follow the delivery trucks around and steal packages immediately after their delivery.
Do your neighbors a favor: if you see merchandise or other item that looks like it’s been discarded cavalierly and/or in a suspicious location, check to see if you can find an intended delivery address and, if so, take it to its rightful owner!
Before reporting a theft: In some instances, a thief will discard stolen items, along with the packaging, within a few blocks of where it was stolen, if the items turn out to not be of interest to him or her. If you walk around your area, you might be lucky and find the items taken from your porch.
Reporting Package Theft
- To report a theft in-progress, call 9-1-1.
- Thefts not in-progress should also be reported to the DC police (after the intended recipient has confirmed with the courier service that the package was indeed delivered to the correct address). This can be done online unless an investigation is needed (such as interviewing witnesses or collecting camera footage or other physical evidence at the scene), or the stolen package contains bank checks, credit/bank cards or anything else that could lead to identify theft, in which case you should call 9-1-1.
- For thefts of packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, you should also submit an online report to the U.S. Postal Inspector, using https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ investigations/mailfraud/fraudschemes/ mailtheft/ReportMailTheft.aspx.
Even if you’re not optimistic that the thief will be caught or the contents of your package recovered, reporting all package theft is important as it may lead to more police resources being deployed to our neighborhood and/or more precautions being taken by the delivery companies and USPS.
A good way to address package theft is to install a security camera so that you can access a real-time camera feed from your smart phone, tablet or computer. This will allow you to see when your packages are stolen and share video footage with your neighbors and the proper authorities. See Surveillance video helps D.C. police capture man in package theft cases in Northwest (Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2015)
Leave your porch lights on in the evenings and during the night to deter people from stealing packages under the cover of dark.
Switchmate is an easy and inexpensive way to control your lights via a smartphone app. It can be programmed to automatically turn your lights on/off, even when you’re away from your home.
Consider exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted neighbors on your block and pick-up or hide packages for each other.
More Secure Delivery Options
- Lock Boxes
Consider installing a lock box for your package deliveries.
There are some that have an automatic locking mechanism (Example: the Gorilla PAR10B01 Parcel Locking Box) while others are designed to prevent “fishing” after a package is delivered (Example: Mail Boss 7506 Mail Manager Locking Security Mailbox).
- The Jeffrie Smart Home Mailbox is a protective device with a 3-dial lock to hang on the exterior of your front door.
- “Street Addressing” Service for P.O. Boxes
Online vendors generally require a street address for delivery of packages. However, you may be able to have a package delivered to a P.O. Box if you sign-up for the USPS “Street Addressing” service and agree to usage restrictions. With certain exceptions (for, e.g., wine, other alcohol, items over 70 pounds, or items prohibited by Postal Service policy), that service allows you to use the post office’s street address for deliveries as long as you show your address in the following format: the street address of the post office where you have your P.O. Box, immediately followed by # and the number of your P.O. Box (e.g., 1000 Main Street #59).
** NOTE **
Before investing in a P.O. Box for this purpose, check with your post office to confirm this service is available there. It’s not available everywhere.
- UPS Store Mailboxes
A UPS Store mailbox also allows you to use a street address as your delivery address. While this may be more expensive than a P.O. Box, its an option if the USPS “Street Addressing” service is not available. Deliveries from all shipping services are accepted.
- Coming soon?
Gopost is being tested by USPS in certain areas. They’re automated, secured, self-service parcel lockers placed near certain post offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, transportation hubs, and shopping centers. Currently the nearest gopost lockers are in Arlington – but hopefully some will be added in Capitol Hill soon.
Amazon Lockers are now offered as delivery options for Amazon orders in some communities. There aren’t any in DC yet, but hopefully they will expand here in the near future.
Customize Your Delivery
U.S. Postal Service
With My USPS, you can give delivery instructions for packages (e.g., leave under your front stoop or in another inconspicuous place) that have a USPS tracking number, aren’t insured for $500 or more, and don’t have a signature requirement.
With FedEx Delivery Manager, you can make special requests for FedEx deliveries, including
- Redirecting the delivery to a FedEx location for pick-up;
- Requesting delivery to another address;
- Giving delivery instructions for all deliveries to your residential address (such as having all your packages placed under under your front stoop or in another inconspicuous place);
- Customizing delivery times;
- Requesting a vacation hold;
- Requesting notification of all deliveries.
With UPS My Choice, you can make special requests for UPS deliveries, including:
- Designating where you would like the UPS driver to leave your package at the delivery address (e.g., under the porch);
- Asking that your packages be left with a neighbor within walking distance;
- Requesting packages be held for pick-up at a UPS Access Point near you (see details below);
- Asking that your packages be delivered to another address ($5 per package with free membership; no charge with $40/yr premium membership);
- Asking for a new delivery date that fits your schedule ($5 per use with free membership; no charge with $40/yr premium membership);
- Choosing a 2-hour window for home delivery ($8 per request with free membership; two free requests each year with $40/yr premium membership).
The UPS Access Point Network:
The UPS Access Point™ network consists of independently owned and operated businesses (including all UPS Stores) that offer you a safe place to pick-up your packages at your convenience. In some communities, it also includes Access Point lockers.
UPS Access Points on Capitol Hill (at the time of writing this) are:
611 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Capitol Hill Sunoco
1248 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
234 15th St., NE
1452 D St., NE
To check for other the locations, use the UPS Location Locator.