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Full Assembly Approves Karabinchak, Johnson & Mukherji "Porch Pirate" Bill to Crack Down on Theft of Delivery Packages, Now Heads to Senate
Measure Strengthens NJ Penalties; Theft of Packages Common During Holiday Season
(TRENTON) - To combat porch package thefts, which are most popular during the holiday season, Assembly Democrats Robert Karabinchak, Gordon Johnson and Raj Mukherji sponsored legislation to crack down on "porch pirate" crimes and bolster state penalties for package theft from New Jersey homes. The measure has cleared the Assembly and will now go to the Senate for further approval.
In 2017, 25.9 million Americans had a holiday package stolen from their front porch or doorstep--more than the 23.5 million porch thefts reported in 2015. The number of package thefts occurring across the nation continues to rise with each passing year.
"Package theft is a growing problem for online consumers," said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). "As the popularity of online shopping has increased, unfortunately, so has the act of stealing those deliveries from homes before residents retrieve them. This is a downside to having your purchases delivered, but not one that should be without penalty and recourse.
"'Porch piracy' is a serious crime that can not only result in the loss of expensive gifts during the holiday season, it affects residents who order medication, and have legal documents and other important items delivered to their home. Taking delivery packages from a person's property is just as invasive as breaking into a home to steal them," continued Karabinchak.
A national packaging company reported in a survey of 1,000 consumers that 31% of those surveyed have had a package stolen, and 41% said they do not buy certain products online because they fear that the items will be stolen if left outside their front door.
Currently, law provides that theft by unlawful taking is a theft offense graded by the value of the property taken.
Local law enforcement has been proactive in taking steps to stop thefts and catch "Porch Pirates" in the act. For instance, Jersey City last December employed fake Amazon boxes equipped with surveillance cameras and GPS units, placing them outside houses in areas where multiple thefts occurred.
"Online shopping is very convenient for busy families. Unfortunately, an unguarded package on a front stoop can be tempting for the unscrupulous," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Stronger penalties can help discourage package thieves and also ensure the penalties under the law match the severity of the crime."
"Package delivery is easier for many seniors and disabled residents who are unable to leave home to just run to the store or the pharmacy," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Having their packages stolen from their front step could mean waiting a longer time for medicine they rely on. With this bill, a so-called "porch pirate" will have to pay a price for taking a package that does not belong to them."
Aiming to apply more stringent penalties than other types of theft by unlawful taking offenses, the bill (A-5072) upgrades the law to increase penalties for unlawful taking of a package delivered to a residential property by a cargo carrier to a fourth degree crime if the amount taken does not exceed $200. If the amount taken does exceed $200, the persons would be guilty of a crime one degree higher that the underlying offense.
The bill also provides for restitution; presently, this is only an option for the sentencing judge.
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