Package theft is now a felony in 8 states and counting

Package theft is now a felony in 8 states and counting

Package theft is now a felony in 8 states and counting

  • Package theft is an essential part of the e-commerce era and is more common in some states than others.
  • Efforts to increase the penalty for package theft are controversial.
  • Here is where the crime of package theft is already or is likely to become a crime.

Since the explosion of e-commerce in 2020 and 2021, package theft has become a constant concern for consumers and legislators are paying attention.

Crime is hard to track, but some trends are clear. It is more common in apartment complexes and multi-family buildings than in single-family homes. According to Consumer Reports, it is more common in urban than suburban areas. But there’s no solid way to know how often “gank pirates” attack, and the tougher punishment is a controversial move.

While 11% of people who receive packages ordered online have at least one stolen, according to a 2021 Consumer Reports survey, only 9% have filed a police report. In the same survey, 65% of those affected said they had at least two packages stolen.

And even if the theft has been registered with the police, the crime of package theft is recorded and accounted for differently depending on the location. In some places, it’s just theft like any other. In others, a separate fee is charged for package theft.

And in states where there is a distinction, legislators are cracking down hard. In the past four years, eight US states have upgraded package theft from a misdemeanor to a felony:

  • Texas — Theft of a package is a felony since 2019, carrying a penalty of six months to 10 years in prison, which may be increased if the offense involved people with disabilities or the elderly.
  • Michigan — Theft of a package is considered a felony for a second violation, punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • Oklahoma — Theft of a package can be considered a crime if the perpetrator is convicted three times within 60 days. The penalty is up to five years in prison.
  • Arkansas — Theft of a package is a felony from 2021 and is punishable by up to six years in prison.
  • Tennessee — Theft of a package is a felony from 2021 and is punishable by up to six years in prison.
  • Georgia – From 2021, the theft of a package can be considered a crime because the perpetrator took three packages or mail from one address or 10 or more packages from three or more addresses. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • New Jersey – At the end of 2022, package theft became a “Third degree felony” in New Jersey, punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • Kentucky “Stealing a package became a felony last year, punishable by up to five years in prison.

California, New York, South Carolina, Kansas and Missouri have similar laws pending enactment by state legislatures, according to a list compiled by The Guardian and investigative journalism team Type Investigations.

Where do thefts most often occur?

There isn’t much of a correlation between states that combat package theft and places that experience it. Only one of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the most package theft is in a state where porch piracy is a crime. These cities were ranked by home security company Vivint based on Google Trends data combined with FBI theft data:

  1. San Francisco, California
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Hartford, Connecticut
  5. Sacramento, California
  6. Los Angeles, California
  7. Portland, Oregon
  8. Fresno, California
  9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  10. New Orleans, Louisiana

Delivery worker slave?

Stealing anything delivered by the U.S. Postal Service is already a crime, but a bill extending this rule to all courier companies nationwide was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year by Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota. In November, she was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

“It’s theft and requires a higher level of punishment,” said Congressman Dan Meuser, a Republican from Texas. “It sends a message that we’re getting tough on those who prey on customers waiting for their items they’ve paid for, including medicines and gifts.”

Proponents of escalating penalties for package theft see the concept as a natural extension of existing security measures for USPS shipments in the e-commerce era – and a necessary deterrent to criminals who could eventually steal key items like prescription drugs.

Last year, The Guardian analyzed all allegations of porch piracy in Texas since the law was passed in 2019. Of the 113 allegations, none appeared to be cases of organized crime and were more likely crimes of desperation or opportunity.

Critics say the laws could disproportionately affect people of color, especially delivery workers. Given the popularity of security systems with door cameras, supplier employees could easily be accused of stealing a package without conclusive evidence, said Aiha Nguyen, program director for Data and Society, a non-profit research organization. She said when packages go missing, delivery staff are often the last known person to come into contact with them and are clearly visible from the now ubiquitous cameras.

“We think they’re quite misguided because they’re likely to pull this low-wage workforce, which is made up of many people of color, into the law enforcement network,” she said. She said when packages go missing, delivery staff are often the last known person to have had contact with them and are clearly visible from the now ubiquitous doorbell cameras.

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged several “porch piracy” laws across the country, including a bill currently under consideration in California that it says “could be used as an excuse to arrest individuals who are clearly targeted by law enforcement or property owners” or indirectly biased.”

The ACLU and Nguyen also pointed out that stealing is already illegal, and making package theft an automatic crime removes nuance from existing theft laws.

“Many of these regulations have no minima,” Nguyen said. “It could be a felony for stealing a $5 lipstick.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *