San Francisco now a leader in 'porch piracy'

I’ve written before about the car break-in problem in San Francisco. The crime is so pervasive that some city residents have taken to writing signs begging the thieves to move on and choose someone else’s car. But the San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that the city has become the leader in another kind of theft: Porch Piracy.

It’s called “porch piracy,” and it’s the swiping of packages off people’s front steps. All that’s left is an empty doorstep and the resident’s frustration…

The packages are easy pickings. Residents have even reported seeing thieves following delivery trucks, stealing each package within minutes after it’s dropped off. Nextdoor and other neighborhood online groups are filled with gripes about packages gone missing and photos taken from security camera footage of the culprits.

The problem has gotten so bad, the phrase “Amazon package stolen” is Googled more often here than in any other city in the country, according to the packaging company Shorr…

Miriam Karpilow said she and her husband no longer order anything that will be delivered to their condo in the Lower Haight. It’s guaranteed to be snatched.

“Anything that doesn’t fit in the mail slot, we’ve had it stolen,” she said. “We’ve had toilet paper stolen. … We lost Sonos speakers. I lost a big box of maternity clothes, which I hope somebody found useful. … I lost cat medication once. Enjoy that. Enjoy your Gabapentin!”

Property crimes like cart break-ins and package piracy are actually down 9% this year. Still, there were 35,217 reports of such crimes in the city this year as of October. A study released this week by UC Berkeley concluded one solution to reducing this kind of non-violent crime is more officers walking a beat:

Beginning in September 2017, San Francisco’s new police chief reassigned 70 mostly plainclothes officers to uniformed foot patrols in response to a rise in thefts, especially car break-ins, throughout the city.

Maura Liévano, a doctoral student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, and Steven Raphael, a professor at the school, compared crime rates in the two months before and after the change and found that the shift in strategy caused significant declines in theft and assault throughout the city.

As this local news report from nearby San Jose points out, this is a nationwide problem which tends to peak around Christmas:

Nearly 26 million Americans reported holiday packages stolen from their porch last year, according to However, the United States Postal Inspection Service reported only about 2,000 mail theft convictions in 2017.

In other words, there are probably tens of thousands of thieves and only a handful get caught and even fewer are punished. With more and more cases of this kind of theft, I wonder if the popularity of locker-style delivery options will pick up, especially around the holidays.

David Strom 10:01 PM on September 26, 2022
David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022