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Strangers at the Door

by Gila Hayes

Advance preparation for strangers coming to our homes has been on my mind lately after researching news reports about contract delivery drivers. Some are professional, uniformed, hired, trained, and vetted by national delivery businesses; others, not so much! Some of these workers are sent to private residences in unmarked cars, trying to contact the homeowner to deliver orders. If a signature is required, closer proximity than is safe or comfortable becomes necessary. We find ourselves interacting with delivery drivers who may or may not wear a company vest or even cap, although logo clothing is too easily misappropriated by burglars or those who might be scoping out a home invasion, so logo wear is not good reason to trust a stranger knocking on your door.

As employers continue to struggle to staff their workforce, I doubt the professionalism of package delivery is going to improve. As with other crime trends, study and strategizing is more essential now than ever, for several reasons. The first, of course, is avoiding blindside attacks by criminals who pose as legitimate delivery drivers to get inside your defenses. Next, we need to be prepared long before the doorbell or driveway alarm sounds. Nothing but trouble awaits if we resort to greeting strangers of unknown intent with a gun in hand or shouting a verbal threat if, caught by surprise, we react with undue alarm. Work out strategies for strangers at the door in advance!

Like all aspects of personal safety, a little inconvenience may be necessary to create a stronger buffer against danger. Do you really need home delivery for goods ordered online? How inconvenient would it be to pick up merchandise at a delivery counter or package locker? Whenever possible, that’s my preferred strategy.

Sometimes surprise deliveries arrive from friends or family who don’t understand or choose to honor our reservations about strangers driving up to our doors. Maybe your attention is deep in a book or other restful activity and dialing it up to Condition Yellow when a stranger comes to the house is a challenge. Before that happens, do some mental rehearsal, and play out several options for responses along the lines of “If A happens, I’ll respond with B,” mentally envisioning each step flowing into the next to put yourself in a confident, solid defensive position. You have to put in the mental preparation for that to happen.

Think long and hard about the many problems relating to answering a knock on the door with a gun in your hand. Way back in 2017, our Advisory Board member Massad Ayoob suggested that was a bad idea in an interview at which merits review. In addition to his arguments against having a gun in your hand when it is police at your door, consider news reports that illustrate how reactions can cascade out of control if a caller believes you endangered them with a gun.

It can help to see both sides of the problem. Do a web search on terms like “delivery driver dangerous job,” or related terms. Delivery drivers are calling law enforcement agencies to report both legitimate fears and unsubstantiated accusations that they were threatened by armed residents at addresses to which their employer sent them. In an environment where false accusations can lead to visits from the SWAT team, it is in our best interests to figure out how to live safely without alarming others. Why provide reasons for fear? Get rid of all gun-centric signs, “Don’t honk, I’m reloading” stickers on your car and aggressive slogans on your t-shirt, and have your gun holstered and concealed under a shirt or in a pocket holster out of sight.

If your Spidey-sense was accurate and your visitor is not a legitimate delivery driver but instead a predator exploiting good, decent people’s need to interact with delivery drivers coming to their door, what preparations have you made for security of the home? As Jim Wilson suggested in his August interview at, can you keep a pet dog that strangers believe may bite, even if you know it’s a pet with no fighting spirit whatsoever?

If you have to sign for a package, realize you’re under no obligation to look down and render a legible rendition of your signature. Can you install a fence or locked gate to serve as a barrier between yourself and delivery drivers while still providing required signatures? Even if it is inconvenient to go down a driveway to the gate, that barrier could be extremely important.

If you need to go outside to interact with delivery drivers, are you corralled on a stairway, or have you stepped down where an even footing allows quick, sure movement if the delivery turns out to be a ruse? Do you have good exterior lighting, and can you see whether there are unexpected accomplices nearby?

If implementing protective steps to manage strangers who come to your home does not seem practical, return to option one, and explore if you can rent a Post Office box or have your purchases sent to package lockers, delivery counters or private mailbox store fronts.

The pandemic and recent years’ riots and violent protests turned many toward the perceived safety of home, although not all were able to shore up home safety. Likewise, not everyone recognizes that food and package delivery, while convenient, creates its own hazards. We fell into the easy habit of having our purchases delivered to the door and may not have implemented protections against criminals exploiting this opening. Likewise, we may have failed to take steps to avoid false accusations by a simple driver our behavior or language alarmed.

Work out those strategies now to smooth out future problems.

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