“Porch pirates” roaming the streets are at an all-time high in parts of Australia, as thieves take extreme measures to get their hands on people’s undelivered parcels in the lead-up to Christmas.
Opportunistic and calculated thieves are swiping parcels left outside homes and businesses, prompting post outlets and couriers to urge consumers to take steps to protect themselves against the crime.
Victorian police have charged 141 people with mail theft offences so far this year, which is more than double the cases of 2017 and the highest year to date.
Dramatic delivery van hijackings and reports of so-called “porch pirates” tailing couriers have also raised concerns about an increasing crime trend.
Last week, a StarTrack van filled with parcels was stolen and the driver assaulted at Newtown, Sydney, after a thief knocked the courier to the ground as he was exiting the vehicle.
Some frustrated shoppers who have suffered repeated parcel thefts are setting up traps to snare would-be thieves with security cameras and decoy packages while online retailers, couriers and entrepreneurs are exploring new residential lockers and safe drop alternatives to allay customer concerns.
Cases of parcels going missing while in the hands of Australia Post and couriers comprised the bulk of complaints to the Postal Industry Ombudsman this year.
Safeguards in place
Australia Post is expecting its busiest-ever Christmas, delivering more than two million parcels a day over the peak period, fuelled by the popularity of online shopping.
A spokesperson for Australia Post said parcels stolen after delivery were a matter for authorities.
“Mail that is tampered with or goes missing from a resident’s property after it has been delivered is a criminal matter that customers should immediately report to the police,” the spokesperson said.
“To make deliveries easier, we offer customers more flexibility with MyPost Deliveries where customers can choose to have their parcels redirected in-transit to a more convenient address, text their delivery preference, and even have their items sent to their local post office or 24/7 parcel locker.
“For added security when sending a parcel, you can also request signature on delivery.”
The New Daily contacted several major couriers and online retailers including Toll, Fastway Couriers and Ebay about mail theft, but did not receive responses.
A spokesperson for DHL said its ‘on-demand delivery’ system provided both shippers and recipients options such as rescheduling delivery dates, arranging delivery to an alternative address and requesting that parcels be put on hold.
Protect your post
Since the boom in online shopping, complaints about parcels going missing before delivery experienced a sharp increase between 2007 and 2012 but have been declining since peaking in 2015.
Complaints against Australian postal services to the Postal Industry Ombudsman decreased again in 2017-18, falling 10 per cent to 3790 complaints compared with 4213 the year before.
Customers’ main gripes related to missing mail (33 per cent), delivery issues (24 per cent) and delays (14 per cent).
Australia Post was also called out for its complaints-handling processes, with the ombudsman recommending changes to make it easier for customers to lodge a complaint and have the case escalated.
With the anxiety of missing and stolen mail adding to Christmas tensions, Australians should consider taking steps to ensure their gifts and goods are delivered or compensated:
- Have packages delivered to an address or neighbour where someone will be home
- Schedule deliveries for times you will be home
- Require a signature
- Consider using a smart locker or lockbox
- Install security cameras to deter thieves
Australia Post offers a standard minimal compensation for items that are lost or damaged of up to $50 on domestic, express and courier post, excluding parcels containing coins or jewellery.
Extra compensation cover can be purchased in increments of between $100 and $5000.