In the wake of the e-commerce surge in 2020 and 2021, the issue of package theft has emerged as a consistent worry for consumers, prompting the attention of legislators.
While tracking this crime presents challenges, certain patterns have come to light. Notably, package theft is more prevalent in multi-unit dwellings such as apartment complexes, as well as shared buildings, as opposed to single-family homes. Urban areas also experience a higher incidence of package theft compared to their suburban counterparts, as highlighted by Consumer Reports. However, accurately gauging the frequency of occurrences by "porch pirates" remains elusive, and the idea of intensifying penalties has sparked debates and divided opinions.
According to a 2021 Consumer Reports survey, 11% of individuals who receive online orders have encountered the theft of at least one package. Surprisingly, only 9% of these incidents resulted in the filing of a police report. In the same survey, 65% of those affected indicated the loss of a minimum of two packages.
Even when victims did report the theft to law enforcement, the legal treatment of package theft varied depending on the jurisdiction. Some regions consider it a basic act of theft, much like any other property crime. Conversely, in certain areas, distinct legal charges specifically address package theft.
In states where such legal distinctions exist, legislators are adopting a resolute stance. Over the past four years, a total of eight US states have escalated the offense of package theft from a misdemeanor to a felony, highlighting an intensified crackdown.
- Texas — Package theft has been a felony since 2019, with a penalty of six months to 10 years in prison, which can be increased if the crime involved disabled or elderly people.
- Michigan — Package theft is considered a felony on second violation, with a penalty of up to five years in prison.
- Oklahoma — Package theft can be charged as felony if the perpetrator is convicted of three instances within 60 days. The punishment is up to five years in prison.
- Arkansas — Package theft has been a felony since 2021 punishable by up to six years in prison.
- Tennessee — Package theft has been a felony since 2021, punishable by up to six years in prison.
- Georgia — Since 2021, package theft can be charged as a felony since if the perpetrator has taken three packages or pieces of mail from one address or 10 or more pieces 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 crime in New Jersey with a punishment of up to five years in prison.
- Kentucky — Package theft became a felony punishable by up to five years in prison last year.
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