Porch pirates could get up to five years in prison for snatching people’s packages under a new bill.
House Bill 954 would make mail theft and porch piracy distinct crimes under Georgia law; currently, taking someone’s packages or letters would be charged under the general theft statute. If HB 954 passes, stealing a package from someone’s doorstep would be a felony.
Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, said she filed the bill to combat the rate of package thefts.
American adults order an average of 45 packages each year, according to a 2019 report from market research agency C+R Research. More than one-third of people nationwide have had a package stolen, and the average cost to replace a stolen package is $109, according to the same report.
“We are having an epidemic of porch piracy right now,” Rich said.
Many Georgia cases of mail and package theft fall under misdemeanor theft charges. Theft becomes a felony when the stolen item is worth at least $500, so stolen shoes, phone chargers or kids’ toys usually don’t make the cut. Making package theft a felony regardless of the item’s value would create a deterrent for a crime that’s as easy as walking up to someone’s door, grabbing a box and walking away, Rich said.
The issue is important to many of her constituents in northwestern Gwinnett County who have long workdays and worry about the safety of packages sitting outside their homes all day, Rich said.
During the holiday season, when package thefts are most common, package carriers UPS and FedEx recommend customers have items sent to their workplace, keep a close eye on package tracking services and, when possible, schedule deliveries for when someone will be home to take them inside.
Rich said constituents have told her they worry package thefts won’t be prioritized for police investigation or prosecution because they are most often misdemeanors. Arrest rates for porch piracy are not widely available; Atlanta and Gwinnett County police departments do not track them. City Journal, a publication from the Manhattan Institute think tank, reported police make arrests in less than 10% of cases.
Other states are also working to increase the penalties for package theft. Michigan passed a similar law in 2019. A 2019 South Carolina bill proposed a minimum of five years in prison for convicted porch pirates; that legislation has not passed.
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