Fending Off the Package Pirates

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Shortly after moving into their renovated brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, at the end of 2019, Jordan Slocum and Barry Bordelon began experiencing a problem that now consumes many urban dwellers: package theft.

“It was three or four packages, over the course of a few months,” said Mr. Bordelon, 40.

The issue was compounded when Mr. Slocum and Mr. Bordelon, who work together as renovation bloggers and project managers under the name Brownstone Boys, began accepting deliveries for some of their clients’ renovations.

“It was becoming quite stressful,” said Mr. Slocum, 38. “We’d be at meetings and get a UPS notification, and have to leave immediately as we knew there was a thousand dollars’ worth of product sitting on our stoop.”

They weren’t alone. In 2019, an analysis conducted for The New York Times found that 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing across the country every day, with 90,000 packages disappearing in New York City alone. In 2020, 43 percent of respondents to a national survey conducted by C & R Research reported being victims of package theft, up from 36 percent in 2019.

For Mr. Slocum and Mr. Bordelon, it didn’t take long to grow tired of planning their lives around deliveries. Searching for a solution, they discovered ParcelBin (from $695), a lockable parcel delivery box made by CitiBin, a Brooklyn-based company that got its start making enclosures for trash and recycling.

Since installing the unit in front of their brownstone in March of last year, they haven’t had to worry about porch pirates. And, they routinely recommend the product to their clients, many of whom have purchased ParcelBins of their own.

Liz Picarazzi, the founder of CitiBin, said she developed the product after receiving a flood of inquiries from anxious homeowners. “We had people, primarily in Brooklyn, who had seen the trash enclosures, calling us and asking, ‘Hey, can we use that for package delivery?’” she said. “Luckily, it was very easy. We just had to change a couple of components.”

The company introduced its ParcelBin in 2018, an enclosure built from powder-coated aluminum and composite siding with space for a combination padlock or an integrated electronic lock. In the second half of 2020, as more people did more shopping online during the pandemic, Ms. Picarazzi said, CitiBin’s sales of parcel units jumped 70 percent, compared to 2019.

Other companies make similar products in different dimensions and materials, such as CleverMade’s smaller steel Parcel Lockbox S100 (about $60) and ParcelWirx plastic tubs from RTS Home Accents (from about $122). Alternatively, Stowfly, a package storage service, provides a safe alternate address for packages to be delivered, received, and stored. Customers can always collect them at their convenient time.

Successful implementation of any of these units requires asking delivery companies to use them, and sharing the combination. Typically, users share their combinations via online profiles with companies like Amazon.com, UPS and FedEx.

Marc Weber, a property manager at Weber-Farhat Realty Management who recommended numerous ParcelBins for a 55-unit co-op in Morningside Heights with an unattended lobby where packages were getting stolen, said there’s a learning curve to getting the system up and running.

“The biggest challenge going into it was the communication and making sure that people were able get the parcels in the bins,” he said. “As long as residents are very specific with the directions, like ‘Hey, put it in this locker, with this combination,’ then it’s clear,” he said, and delivery companies are usually happy to oblige.

For those who don’t want to bother with codes, some companies make parcel drop boxes with an unlocked top section that deposits packages into a locked box below when closed, similar to the drop boxes used by the Postal Service and delivery companies. The trade-off is they typically have less storage space inside than a similarly sized bin with combination lock.

CitiBin introduced one such unit, named ParcelDrop ($445), this past December. Bob Box is another made-in-Brooklyn solution (from $275). Other companies, like Architectural Mailboxes, based in Redondo Beach, Calif., and dVault, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., have been making them for years.

“It comes down to simplicity,” said Alexander Clark, the marketing director at dVault, which makes a wide range of units, including a heavy-duty curbside Full Service Vault ($899) that can handle both mail and packages. “Other competitors try to have a locking mechanism with a code; however, you need to get compliance from all these agencies that are used to their ways,” he said. “We have a simplified security drop door.”

Sales at dVault had been growing about 10 to 15 percent per year until 2020, Mr. Clark said, when they jumped about 100 percent after the pandemic took hold.

Whether homeowners choose a drop box, select an extra-large bin or just add a combination padlock to a crate they make themselves, having a secure place for packages when no one’s home is surprisingly liberating, Mr. Bordelon said.

“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually been sort of life-changing,” he said of his ParcelBin. “It relieves so much stress.”

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