Nova Scotia

Porch pirates strike in Halifax as survey shows rise in parcel thefts

The Bloomfield area of north-end Halifax was recently struck by a porch pirate, and it is not alone. According to a survey by FedEx one-third of Canadians stated that in 2020 that they have been victims of a package theft.

FedEx says 1 in 3 Canadians who shops online has had parcel stolen from doorstep

A cardboard box on a doorstep.
FedEx says more Canadians are shopping online and with more online shopping comes more parcel theft. (Sashkin/Shutterstock)

Recently, Caroline Arsenault watched parcels being stolen in her own neighbourhood — and didn't even realize. 

"I happened to see a couple of people walking by the window where I sit for my work and then rapidly walk back toward the street and I didn't think anything of it really," said Arsenault. 

She later found her husband attempting to contact the police after observing the same people also pace up and down their driveway. He got suspicious. He was right. 

"He found Amazon packages in our green bin," she said.

The thieves had taken two packages. One was emptied of its contents while the other was left torn open with the stuff still inside.

Arsenault's North End Halifax neighbourhood had just been hit by a porch pirate. 

It's not just happening in Halifax.

"The porch pirate has been a little busier this year unfortunately and now a third of Canadians stated in 2020 that they have been victims of a package theft," FedEx spokesperson James Anderson told CBC News.

'Porch pirating compared to our survey from the previous year is up," said James Anderson, communications advisor with FedEx. (CBC)

FedEx has published a survey of 1,500 Canadians this holiday season and found that one in three online shoppers say they have experienced package theft in 2020, up from one in four in 2019. It also found that three in 10 are worried about their online purchases being stolen when delivered. 

Jon Hamilton, spokesperson for Canada Post, said they haven't seen a noticeable increase in complaints about packages being stolen, but cautioned that doesn't mean it's not a threat. He also noted that many people are now working at home and are able to get their parcel as soon as it is delivered.

FedEx's survey stated that 91 per cent of Canadians indicated they have shopped online in the last month (Chris Mulligan/CBC)

In other parts of the country, such as Toronto, where lockdown restrictions are more prevalent, more people are able to stay at home to receive their deliveries. In Nova Scotia many businesses and schools remain open in the province so some people are frequently not home and cannot receive their packages.

Arsenault posted about the porch bandit on social media and was surprised by the reaction.

"I had quite a few neighbours chime in and say that they too had found open and empty boxes in their driveway or thrown somewhere it didn't really belong." 

After Arsenault's neighbour reported the incident to the police, Arsenault herself received a follow up call.   

Caroline Arsenault witnessed two porch pirates on her own property. (CBC)

"The police confirmed this is something that they see quite a bit of. It's something that we should all be mindful of if we're expecting to receive packages when we might not be available to answer the door or pick them up quickly," she said.

Halifax Regional Police have not yet responded to a request for an interview. 

FedEx, along with Canada Post, DHL courier service, UPS, Amazon Canada and Purolator all offer tracking information online, which FedEx's James Anderson said is one of the primary ways to keep your package safe.

"We give package recipients digital tools to use at your disposal," said Anderson. "If you got a tracking number you can get a notification sent to you when you expect those packages to arrive so you can stay on top of it."

FedEx says they provide tracking alerts, delivery notifications via text or email, and the ability to redirect packages to secure FedEx locations. (CBC)

Bob Mann, acting chair of the neighbourhood watch in Wilmot, Annapolis County, N.S., said there are more low-tech ways to protect your deliveries. He said you can try asking a neighbour to pick it up or leave the radio on. Mann said one of his favourite home safety tools is photosensitive lights.

"If you don't have one yourself, take note," said Mann, who has been with his neighbourhood watch since its creation in 1995. "They light up probably half of my driveway ... at dusk the bulbs will come on and they'll go off in the morning." 

Cpl. Lisa Croteau of the RCMP said package theft doesn't appear to be a big issue at this time, but that could change, so she does have some advice. 

"Have a different method to pick it up. Instead of dropping it off on your front porch, if you could go to a different location to pick up the package that would be a little safer."

Arsenault said she wanted to make people aware of the incident but she also understands the situation.

"We know there are probably more packages being delivered at this time of year. Holidays are coming up and times are hard for people so we know this is something that happens," said Arsenault.