Data released last month by the home services marketplace Porch suggested close to 1 million home burglaries took place across the United States in 2021, with about 83,000 of those coming in December as holiday gift packages were swiped from people's doorsteps.

Over the course of last year, State Farm handled around 22,000 theft claims, and senior public affairs specialist Dave Phillips said many of those incidents were the work of Christmastime "porch pirates."

Phillips said that from an insurance perspective, residents do have recourse if something that they've ordered vanishes, but most typically it has to be a big-ticket item that was stolen.

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"Your insurance will cover the package, but because it's under your homeowners' policy, you have to think about it in terms of the deductible, and the deductible applies," Phillips said. "And deductibles on most home insurance policies are in the thousands."

How does a resident stop these burglaries before they start?

Instead of making up for lost items, Phillips said State Farm has three main tips to suggest to prevent porch pirate victimization this holiday season.

First, require a signature if you expect to be home at the time your parcel is scheduled to be delivered.

Second, look into something called a "package delivery box." Those could be personal and for home use only, or a community locker-type box with a computer code for access. Amazon makes such a model.

Third, having security cameras or outdoor lighting on timers could deter potential thieves.

At the very least, such equipment would help police if an incident should unfortunately occur. But Phillips said there are other smart solutions, like providing additional delivery directions.

"Perhaps there's an area of your home that's less visible from the street if a package is placed there, or there's somewhere special maybe even in the back of the home," he said.

And there's yet another workaround, which Phillips said a person might have to clear with their boss first.

"If your workplace will allow, some folks look into having packages delivered to work, to help secure the fact that it's actually being delivered to a place of business," he said.

Who can help you when something is stolen?

Police should always be notified in the event of porch piracy, but Phillips said victims should also verify that their package was safely delivered to begin with, then reach out to the retailer, shipping company, and/or credit card issuer.

Also, he said, it's a good idea to tell the local town watch or homeowner's association, depending on your living situation, in case the theft is indicative of a larger problem.

Which brings up one final point. In this annual time of generosity and goodwill, Phillips recommended letting those nearby know about scheduled deliveries, with the hope that they will pay it forward.

"It is the holiday season," he said. "Be a good neighbor, have good neighbors, talk to your neighbors. Let them know if things may be delivered."

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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