The Package Pickup Networks Arising to Combat Package Theft

A building lobby in New York filled with online orders.
Credit: Hugh Mitton/Alamy Stock Photo

Jake DeGroot has lived in his townhouse in Jackson Heights for just over a year and has had packages stolen from his front door three times. The first time, the thieves got away with a 25-pound box of specialty dog ​​food. Then they took a box of Amazon items.

The third time, DeGroot was working upstairs when his Ring camera alerted him to a woman he didn’t know grabbing a package at his door. By the time he was outside, she was on the back of a moped, driving down the street. So he sprinted two blocks and caught up with her in front of another building she was trying to enter. “I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing? You can’t steal my stuff.’ He said she replied, ‘Please don’t call the police’ , returned some items – which turned out to be underwear he had ordered – and fled. He called the cops anyway: “They scolded me for chasing her,” he said. “But they never did anything. I followed the police station four times, but they just dropped the case.

Photo: Jake DeGroot

DeGroot is just one of many townspeople frustrated by package theft. Across the city, New Yorkers are posting screenshots from their doorbell cameras to neighborhood mailing lists, Facebook groups and on Nextdoor to track down and notify neighbors of anyone caught in the act. As residents doubled their online purchases during the pandemic, at around 3.6 million parcels per day, the rise in parcel thefts seems to have accompanied this surge. Even before the pandemic, a New York Times analysis as of 2019, an estimated 90,000 packages are stolen or mysteriously disappear every day in the city, up 15% from four years earlier. Nationally, New York is now the state with the fourth highest package theft rate, according to this Survey 202127% of New Yorkers report having had at least one package stolen in the past 12 months.

This created a lot of demand for a solution, especially during the holidays. DeGroot thought his doorbell camera could stop people stealing, but “it clearly didn’t solve that,” he said. “Security cameras don’t seem to be a deterrent in New York City,” says Liz Picarazzi, an entrepreneur from Brooklyn. “The porch hijackers rarely get caught and know the police have bigger crimes to focus on. Theft of sentimental items is particularly bad. Recently, she says a friend of hers sent someone a handmade gift: a Christmas ornament with her face on it. The ornament was brushed off – “not easily replaceable, and certainly not in time for Christmas”.

In 2018, Picarazzi created the ParcelBin: a sleek parcel locker with an aluminum cabinet and bamboo liner that can be padlocked or, for $1,225, comes with a digital lock. Since the pandemic, she has seen a 150% increase in orders, especially from brownstone and townhouse owners in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and she recently began expanding her sales nationwide to companies like AT&T. But bins only work if carriers use them: Last year, Picarazzi – a self-proclaimed wetsuit collector – said she had a wetsuit stolen when a carrier left it on her front porch instead of place it in its ParcelBin.

The ParcelBin, a parcel locker, installed outside a dwelling.
Photo: Courtesy of Liz Picarazzi

Other startups include GoLocker, whose white locker walls with built-in touchscreens first debuted in 2015 at Rocky’s Deli and Supermarket in Fort Greene. Users pay $20 a month to get up to ten deliveries a month from lockers, which are currently mostly in Brooklyn but “will expand exponentially to other boroughs in January 2023,” says Kiley Tkaczyk, vice president. of the company. It’s already open two dedicated locations in the Lower East Side and Upper East Side with 24/7 access: “Our goal is to have lockers located in each neighborhood. They compete with Amazon lockers, which can be found at Amazon-owned stores like Rite Aid and Whole Foods. (An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment, but a search of Amazon’s site shows at least 100 lockers across the city.)

But the option that doesn’t require any new physical infrastructure at all is one that might be at your local bodega or pharmacy. For small businesses, joining fundraising networks is a way to earn some extra cash. They could participate in networks like Bounce, which hires local businesses to serve as package acceptance centers. Bounce debuted on the Lower East Side in December 2020 at the Madison LES Hotel, charging users $5 per item to receive packages or store items like luggage. “After we launched, many New York property management companies contacted us and asked if we could get locations near their buildings and how they could offer subscription plans to their clients,” says Nikita Frampton. , responsible for Bounce. The startup, now backed by millions of dollars in venture capital funding, now has 76 locations across the city and is also available in more than 100 cities around the world.

Photo: Wilfrid Chan

Another option many may already be familiar with is the UPS Access Point network, which launched in New York in 2014. It now has 398 locations across the city, according to company director Robin Hooker. One of these local spots is at Wireless JHCa Chinatown phone card seller operating behind a small counter in the hallway of an East Broadway arcade, who joined the network in 2019. Owner Jay Chen explains that getting approved was a very competitive process: ” They have so many people waiting to apply for Access Point, for example, if one closes, there will be another.

Chen earns 50 cents for each package he holds on behalf of the shipping company. Since he started, the amount of packages he handles has jumped about 40% — not just because of the pandemic, but because the neighborhood is changing, he says. Older Chinese immigrants aren’t big online shoppers, and nearly all of its UPS customers aren’t Chinese. Many of them live in apartments where UPS doesn’t deliver due to high rates of package theft, delivering them straight to Chen’s booth, where they sometimes pile up to the ceiling, leaving almost no room for him. to move.

DeGroot, the Jackson Heights resident, hopes similar equipment will soon arrive in his neighborhood. There is no place in front of his door to install a locker, and the collection networks have not yet opened nearby. For now, he’s posted on Facebook warning others about his underwear thief and has created a texting group with neighbors to keep tabs on future incidents. “If there was a local bodega that I knew was willing and able to accept packages, I would definitely consider redirecting my deliveries there,” he says. “I think it’s a very good idea.”

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