Jaireme Barrow was frustrated by thieves regularly stealing packages from his porch. Consequently, the Tacoma, Washington, resident set up a booby trap to fight back. He then placed a camera above his front door and watched as would-be thieves received the surprise of their life.
The rise of online shopping has created a huge amount of business for the delivery companies that bring packages to your door. In 2016 consumers conducted 51 percent of their transactions via the internet, outstripping physical retail sales. However, this boost has been accompanied by the increase of a criminal trend called “porch piracy.”
According to price comparison site InsuranceQuotes, approximately 26 million Americans have had their packages stolen by porch pirates. In essence, these criminals see a package waiting on your porch and take it for themselves. And because people are often at work at the time, the thieves often get away with their crimes.
“Unfortunately, porch theft is a difficult problem to address,” the COO of risk-management firm Chargebacks911, Monica Eaton-Cardone, told InsuranceQuotes. “While there are organized groups who engage in this practice, it is most often a crime of convenience. The thief sees a package sitting unattended and simply grabs it.”
For Barrow, this problem was even more irritating than usual. He alleges that thieves targeted his home regularly because his porch is highly visible from the street. And the packages themselves contained valuable car parts, so losing them was particularly upsetting.
“I got tired of all my packages coming up missing. I’d be at work, and I’d get home and they wouldn’t be on my front porch,” Barrow told KLTA in December 2017. “I’d watch my surveillance and see someone running away with them.”
In view of this continuing problem, Barrow decided to fight back with an ingenious booby trap. He made a box that was rigged with a blank 12-gauge shotgun shell. So, when the box was lifted, it would detonate the shell and scare off any would-be thief. And since he began using the trap, Barrow says that it has gone off on 15 occasions.
Speaking to Inside Edition, Barrow said, “It’s completely harmless. It’s just a really loud noise.” Additionally, Barrow recorded each attempted theft on his surveillance cameras. And in the resulting videos, we can see just what a shocking effect the noise has had on porch pirates.
In a series of examples, Barrow’s video shows several people walking casually up to his porch to try to steal from him. In the first example, from 2014, a female thief grabs a package before getting into a getaway car waiting for her in the street. From then on, though, Barrow’s security system comes into effect.
Barrow’s posted videos show that porch pirates come in a variety of shapes and sizes – but all of them are deterred by his booby trap. One girl in the footage seems to have a couple of partners in crime. She panics after triggering the trap and then slips on the ground as she flees.
But that was by no means the most emphatic reaction to the booby-trapped box that Barrow caught on video. In another clip, we see a young man try to lift the package, only to be shocked by the loud noise. He tries to run away, but slips on the first step and lands face down on the ground in a pratfall.
The original box that Barrow built was relatively simple. There was an aluminum holder for the shells, which were attached to fishing line, plus bricks to give the package some weight. Despite its rudimentary design, though, its success spawned a new business idea.
Nowadays, Barrow builds and sells a product called “The Blank Box.” It’s a version of his original contraption that costs between $50 and $70 and can be set up with the help of an instructional video. Barrow also sells “refill” blanks for $2.99.
As if that wasn’t enough, he also sells t-shirts to match his product. One of them reads “Don’t touch my box,” while another version states “Don’t touch my package.” Some have questioned whether his videos are just a marketing stunt, but Barrow insists that they are all real.
“[The Blank Box] deters people from coming on their porches, too,” Barrow told KTLA. “They never know if what they have on their porch is a blank box or a legit package. So my hope is it just makes people think twice about what they are doing.”
Although this might be true, police from Barrow’s home city of Tacoma are warning that home-made blank boxes aren’t a good idea. Should a booby trap hurt a thief, then it’s then possible that homeowners might be deemed liable for any injuries. The authorities advise that it’s best to set up a camera, record the thieves and then turn the tape in to the police.
Thankfully, there are other deterrents available to people suffering from porch piracy. To prevent theft, one company has created the Porch Pirate Bag. Made from ballistic nylon reinforced with PVC, the bag attaches to a railing and can be used by delivery men to safely store your packages until you return home.
The company’s video on YouTube explains, “The Porch Pirate Bag has been extensively tested and has received rave reviews from UPS and FedEx drivers who safely lock your packages in [the bag]. Just like a dog barking deters burglars, the Porch Pirate Bag deters these criminals.”
And it certainly seems that being prepared for thieves can pay dividends for homeowners. Trevor Salmon, from Utah, was able to track down a porch pirate by using images captured through a doorbell camera. Firstly, he posted an image of the thief on social media.
As a result, when a neighbor subsequently saw the thief a couple of blocks away, she recognized them from the post. She then contacted Salmon, who raced to confront the person who’d stolen his package. Although police later warned against this kind of action, Salmon was nonetheless able to retrieve the stolen goods.