Front Door Packages

packages by the front door.

As Black Friday ushers in a holiday shopping season sure to be affected by supply-chain scarcity, Coloradans have another headache to contend with: package theft.

SafeWise, an online consumer safety and security resource, found in its recently-released annual report that more than three in four Americans surveyed have had a package stolen in their lifetime. The 1,000-person survey, conducted in collaboration with Cove Home Security, showed the crime surged in the past year, as 64% of respondents said they had a package stolen in the previous 12 months — up from 47% from the year prior. And those who did have something stolen likely had to deal with the nuisance again, as 53.5% of all respondents reported they’ve had multiple packages stolen in the last year. From those numbers, SafeWise estimates 210 million packages have been stolen across the country in the last year.

More worrisome for Coloradans is SafeWise says the trend is at its worst in the state’s largest city. The Mile High City somehow leapfrogged from outside of the top-10 cities for package theft into sole ownership of the top spot to steal the annual crime crown from three-time reigning champion San Francisco. A dubious distinction if ever there was one. Denver was unranked in 2020, eighth in 2019 and eleventh in 2018.

SafeWise bestowed the honor on Denver — also ahead of Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Antonio, Austin and Portland — after analyzing 2020 FBI larceny-theft data from major metropolitan areas across the country. They then compared that statistical sample to Google Trends data in areas with the highest number of searches for “missing package” and “stolen package.” SafeWise’s rating for each metro area dedicated 50% of the city’s score to Google Trends search popularity and the other 50% to the larceny-theft rate per 100,000 people.

SafeWise didn’t share its exact score for Denver relative to other cities. But local and statewide crime data of recent puts the finger on the pulse of just how bruised by violent crime, and peppered with property crime, Colorado has become. It all took off in earnest last year as assorted miscreants statewide were released from lockups early — or never even incarcerated — in a misguided attempt to stem the spread of COVID behind bars. That helps explain why 2020 saw a 3.9% increase in overall crime in the state; murder and manslaughter increased 29%, aggravated assault rose 17%, and robbery was up 6.5%. Auto thefts were up an astounding 39%.

Just over the past two weeks in Denver, from Nov. 9 through Nov. 23, the city police department reported 309 incidents of larceny — nearly 21-per-day — including various types of theft, but not including theft from a motor vehicle. As for package theft, specifically, though the Denver Crime Map doesn’t specify the crime in its rolling database, Denver 7 reported back in June there were 629 incidents of package theft reported to the Denver Police Department through the first half of the year. That was 40% more package theft than the same time in 2020 and twice as many incidents as 2019.

SafeWise warns in its 2021 report that package theft will likely be even worse this winter as more and more people opt to buy presents online rather than in a store. SafeWise estimates just over half of all Americans plan to shop more online this year than they did last year. SafeWise further warns thieves are more attracted to holiday-season packages because they are often worth more financially.

As for last winter, during the first holiday season amid COVID-19, The Gazette reported in December 2020 the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office was seeing 10 to 15 reports of package thefts per day. The department couched that estimate in the fact that they believed cases were probably higher, in reality, considering the porch-pirate nature of the crime is hard to track, as many victims don’t report the incident because they think their package just got lost.

In their report, SafeWise consulted Dr, Ben Stickle, a criminal justice and theft expert from the University of Louisville. He has specific research interests in crime prevention, environmental crime, rational choice and ethnography. All of those academic notches in his belt led Stickle to the same conclusions on package theft most any rational law enforcement agent or citizen would surmise: These are crimes of opportunity where low-entry crooks don’t need any special skills to execute the hustle. And further complicating the matter, Stickle says, is how the disciplinary risk to these hoodlums is low because the punishment, even if caught, is minimal.

Though we can’t account for soft-on-crime policies that have abetted this spike in criminal activity, we as community members can look out for one another. Through this holiday season, let’s do our part for our neighbors and keep an eye out for opportunistic thieves, while also communicating with police, so these thugs spoil as few holiday celebrations as possible.

The Gazette editorial board