• August 17, 2019

Texas toughens package theft penalties - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

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Texas toughens package theft penalties

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Posted: Friday, July 5, 2019 11:23 am

Online shopping can leave consumers vulnerable to package theft and legislators aim to deter offenders by upping the consequences.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 37 into law last month, which redefines criminal penalties for mail and package theft in Texas beginning September.

The punishment will range from a class A misdemeanor, up to one year in jail and a fine of $4,000, to between two and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, depending on the number of addresses a person has stolen from.

An individual found in possession of mail containing sensitive personal identifying information with the intent of fraudulent use can be charged with up to a first-degree felony.

Odessa Police Department spokesperson Cpl. Steve LeSueur said there is always a risk when mail is delivered and a resident is not home for immediate retrieval.

“It’s not just one specific area of town, it’s all over, and it can happen anywhere at any time,” he said.

LeSueur said a spike in package theft is seen between Cyber Monday, one of the largest online shopping days in the U.S., and New Year's Day. Additional promotions create a surge in online sales outside of the holiday season such as Amazon Prime Day during July.

The OPD spokesperson recalled an incident that took place in east Odessa on Nov. 27, 2017 where two people were arrested and charged in connection with theft of property.

“There were two subjects occupying a U-Haul and they were taking packages from porches…and they were found to be in possession of 21 packages that were stolen,” he said.

The OA previously reported the two individuals were caught on surveillance footage and later admitted to the thefts.

LeSueur said successful package theft investigations often come as a result of doorbell cameras or other means of surveillance equipment that are installed around a person’s home.

“It makes a huge difference because what will happen is we’ll have one or two people or multiple suspects go around and commit dozens of these thefts, but all it takes is that one person who has a camera and they get caught,” LeSueur said. “It can make or break a case.”

He encouraged Odessa residents to have a plan in place if they will not be home at the time of a delivery, which could include having a trusted friend or family member retrieve the package, asking the company to hold the package at their delivery center or requesting delivery options that require a signature.

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