DENVER — It’s one of the more pesky parts of ordering something online. You buy a product and ship it to your home only to have a porch pirate beat you to the punch.
A recent survey by SafeWise found that more than 210 million packages have been stolen across the country in the past year. The survey ranked Denver as number one for the most porch pirate thefts in 2021, knocking San Francisco out of the top position after a three-year streak.
“In terms of porch piracy, losers for the companies and losers for the customer," said Melissa Akaka, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business. "Customers are expecting companies to do something about it, and customers can only generally take so much responsibility for packages getting into their homes."
Colorado lawmakers have tried and failed in previous legislative sessions to crack down on porch piracy. This legislative session, Rep. Alex Valdez has a different idea. He has introduced a bill to offer a $75 tax credit to porch pirate victims who put in an anti-theft device.
“It is a crime. In cases where somebody is caught stealing a package, there should be law enforcement activity, but at the same time we want to prevent that altogether,” Valdez said.
The bill stemmed from Valdez’s own experience. He says he’s had numerous packages stolen from his own front porch and knows many others have been through similar experiences.
There are a number of anti-theft options for consumers, like BenchSentry by Genie, a company that started with three employees in Lakewood but has expanded significantly since getting started.
“BenchSentry was created to thwart porch theft. It's one thing to tuck packages behind, you know, bushes or behind pillars on porches. But that's not going to stop a thief,” said Jennifer Seimi, a product manager with BenchSentry. “This is a true deterrent rather than just grabbing a video clip of somebody walking off the porch with a package.”
Seim says big companies like Amazon have done a good job with their customer service by replacing packages that go missing. However, free replacements can certainly hurt the bottom line of small businesses.
BenchSentry recently started offering a new feature for bigger packages. Smart technology will open a homeowner’s garage and then close it for the delivery driver.
Seim thinks the bill is a good idea that could prevent package thefts in the future.
House Bill 22-1030 does have one caveat, though. It requires the victims of porch pirate theft to file a police report in order to qualify for the tax credit. Valdez says the goal of the police report requirement is to help law enforcement agencies collect more data on the frequency of these thefts.
“We found that there's not a lot of data. Most of the time when somebody is the victim of piracy, they just call Amazon or whoever and get another package sent their way. So, we don't even have really good data on how prevalent this problem is,” Valdez said.
The bill faced its first committee test on Thursday. Valdez dressed up like a pirate for a few laughs during the bill presentation.
“I don't know that there's going to be one right solution, so maybe having an array of solutions is really the answer here,” said Akaka.
The bill was laid over for lawmakers to discuss possible amendments and then take action another day.