(TRENTON) – 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.
To combat these thefts, which are most popular during the holiday season, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak has introduced legislation to crack down on “porch pirate” crimes and bolster state penalties for package theft from New Jersey homes.
“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.
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.
“‘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,” continued Karabinchak.
Currently, law provides that theft by unlawful taking is a theft offense graded by the value of the property taken.
Aiming to apply more stringent penalties than other types of theft by unlawful taking offenses, Assemblyman Karabinchak’ s 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.
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.
“Common decency would dictate that a person would not take what doesn’t belong to them. However, an unguarded package on a front step can be too tempting for some dishonest individuals. Taking delivery packages from a person’s property is just as invasive as breaking into a home to steal them,” Karabinchak said.
“Stronger penalties could help discourage “porch pirates” from stealing packages but, more importantly, these changes will align the penalties with the severity of the crime.”
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.