As It Happens

Washington inventor hits back at 'porch pirates' with booby-trapped boxes

Jaireme Barrow was fed up with packages being stolen off his porch, so he invented a decoy box that makes a big bang when lifted by would-be thieves.
A person attempting to snatch a package from Jaireme Barrow's porch stumbles on a step after lifting TheBlankBox. (TheBlankBox/YouTube)

Story transcript

It's peak season for package home deliveries. That means it's also peak season for thieves swiping those boxes from people's front steps.

After having multiple deliveries stolen, one victim decided he'd had enough of the so-called "porch pirates."

Since police were not able to stop the string of thefts off his porch in Tacoma, Wash., Jaireme Barrow created a device to scare them away: TheBlankBox. 

It's a booby-trapped box rigged with a 12-gauge shotgun blank that goes off when lifted, making a loud, startling noise. 

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to Barrow about his invention. Here's part of their conversation: 

At what point did you decide you didn't just want to get mad at these porch pirates — you wanted to get even?

After they started taking my expensive Jeep parts is when I drew a line in the sand.

Tell us some of the things you'd had stolen from your porch.

Like most people, I have everything delivered, from expensive car parts to toilet paper. So, they've pretty much taken everything.

From TheBlankBox website: 'This device triggers two separate, very loud reminders to stay off your porch, and to not touch your package!' (TheBlankBox.com)

You set up surveillance cameras at first. Why didn't that help?

I think police are just inundated with this kind of occurrence now. You forward it to them, but if you have hundreds of them coming in, the manpower isn't there for them to investigate all of them. 

What's been the reaction to your BlankBox? 

Overwhelmingly positive. I think it's a way for people to get instant karma and be able see it, in real time, them running off your front porch empty-handed. It's priceless. 

Barrow poses with his invention, which just looks like a regular Amazon delivery from the outside. (Subnmitted by Jaireme Barrow )

Describe a typical reaction.

I've had a few people climb over my fence, walk up to the front porch expecting just to grab the box and run. When they go to pick it up, obviously the 12-gauge goes off, which is an extremely loud noise.

One guy actually was trying to run so fast that he forgot there was a step there and missed it. He looked like he was trying to do the invisible box challenge in the air, like Roadrunner. He hit the ground pretty hard and didn't look back and kept running for his getaway car. 

And this is giving you some satisfaction, seeing this?

I mean, how could it not? Someone's coming up on your property, trying to take your property, and you get to witness them not only not get away with it, but also kind of get a little payback.

It's safe, minus some scrapes and bumps. All these people get to live to see another day. I don't think there's any harm in it. 

Video surveillance shows a would-be package thief deterred by Barrow's invention. (Youtube TheBlankBox)

The Washington Post did a story about your BlankBox and spoke to local police, who say what you're doing might be illegal because you're not supposed to assemble explosive devices and leave them on your porch, apparently. 

It's not explosive; it's a loud noise. Like a car alarm, or any other alarm, it's just a noise to deter theft. I don't see a difference between what I'm doing and a car alarm. 

What if the intruder is carrying a firearm and decides they're being fired at. They're going to fire back? What happens then?

I guess I would have to take that as it comes. Hopefully, I'm not home at the time. I doubt that will happen. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear our full interview with Jaireme Barrow, listen above.

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