Felony punishments for porch pirates take effect in Georgia

Arkansas, Texas have similar law on the books

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A new law in Georgia hopes to curb porch piracy and mail theft by classifying certain degrees of these crimes as felonies.

The law, which went into effect July 1, creates two felonies that are punishable by up to five years in prison:

— Theft by possession of stolen mail is committed when an individual steals mail addressed to three or more different mailboxes or addresses and possesses a minimum of 10 separate pieces of stolen mail.

— Porch piracy is defined as removing three or more pieces of mail from the porch, steps or immediate vicinity of any dwelling of three or more different mailboxes or addresses.

Stiffer penalties are intended to deter thieves, the law’s backers said.

State Rep. Bonnie Rich, a Republican from Suwanee who sponsored the legislation, told Georgia Public Broadcasting she did so at the postal inspector’s request.

“In 2020, [the postal service] received over 20,000 reports of mail theft from citizens,” Rich said during a legislative hearing this year. “There were an additional 95,000 reports of mail not received. A significant portion of those, the U.S. Postal Inspector suspects, were actual theft.”

Ben Stickle, an associate professor of criminal justice administration at Middle Tennessee State University who co-authored a study on porch piracy, expressed skepticism about the law’s effectiveness to Georgia Public Broadcasting.

“This is a low-level entry crime,” Stickle told GPB. “It takes almost no skill to walk up and take a package from someone.”

Stickle told GPB the new law likely would result in a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“The number of package thefts that the state of Georgia is going to experience will skyrocket simply because there’s now a mechanism to keep track of it,” Stickle told GPB. “It will look like more of a problem now because we’re actually recording it, and this is always one of the very difficult things about establishing laws or increasing penalties.”

Arkansas also has enacted a law that makes stealing packages from someone’s doorstep a felony, KTHV reported.

The new law, passed during this year’s Arkansas legislative session, makes “porch pirating” a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to six years in prison.

“It’s not just a thing that’s being taken. It’s someone’s sense of security in their home,” Charles Finkenbinder, the Conway city attorney, told THV11.

Finkenbinder recommends filing a police report no matter the size or value of a stolen package.

“You know, with the pandemic we saw that it wasn’t just birthday presents but also groceries and medical supplies,” Arkansas state Rep. Lee Johnson, lead sponsor of the bill, told THV11.

Georgia and Arkansas aren’t the only states making an effort to stop porch pirates.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in 2019 that increased penalties for stealing mail, KEYE reported.