“Porch pirates,” beware.
Anyone who has ever encountered the frustration that comes from having a package stolen from their front porch will take solace in knowing the Texas Legislature moved to address the growing menace that has come to be known as “porch piracy.”
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that will increase punishment for stealing mail, which, according to the legislation, is defined as “a letter, a postal card, a package, bag or other sealed article” addressed to an individual that has been dropped off by a common carrier or delivery service or has been left by a customer for pickup.
Passing a law with stronger penalties was wise. According to surveys, as many as three in 10 people say they’ve had a package stolen. The increase comes at the same time an overwhelming majority of people shop online or opt to have purchases delivered to their doorstep. Increasingly emboldened thieves are not just breaking the law; they are violating the sacred space of homeowners and renters, many of whom are at work earning an honest living for their families while some stranger trespasses on their property and steals their package. Frustrated victims have even resorted in some cases to taking a bite out of crime by booby-trapping packages.
It has always been against the law to steal someone else’s mail, but this legislation, which becomes effective Sept. 1, steps up the penalties for “porch pirates” acting with impunity and exhibiting greater degrees of brazenness. They are a particularly pronounced nuisance during the holiday season.
Under the new law, a convicted mail thief can face as much as 10 years in prison, depending on how many people they took advantage of. Fines range from $4,000 to $10,000. It also includes additional penalties in cases where the disabled or elderly are victimized.
Mail theft is a felony under federal law but had typically been a misdemeanor under state law. Convicted offenders received the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, and the crime became a felony only if the equivalent of $1,500 was stolen and only if prosecuted. The new statute boasts serious consequences and should be a deterrent to would-be offenders.
House Bill 37 was introduced by Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston). “Package theft has been on the rise in recent years due to the increased market share of online shopping and home delivery services,” Wu said in a news release when he filed the bill in February. “Despite frequently having clear videos documenting the theft, these acts often go uninvestigated, and the offenders go unpunished.”
This may seem like a low priority to some, but because other measures have not been effective, it was time for Texas to address a growing issue and put stiff penalties in place for a problem too many West Texans have experienced. Few things are as maddening as placing an order, tracking it online through a delivery service, receiving a notification it has been delivered, and then discovering a thief has beat a path to its location and stolen it before the intended recipient’s arrival.
To top it off, the victim has little recourse other than to notify law enforcement and file a form to start the ordering process all over again. Lawmakers made the right move in making this practice a felony with serious consequences. Perhaps now, “porch pirates” will think twice before deciding if they want to risk becoming a convicted felon.
“Porch pirates,” beware.