A local state Representative wants to put an end to local news headlines detailing what has come to be known as porch piracy; theft of packages and or mail from the homes of Pennsylvania residents with tougher penalties
Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) has introduced legislation, earlier this month, to crack down on these types of thefts with harsher penalties for those convicted of “porch pirate” crimes.
Theft of mail is currently charged as a theft offense based solely on the value of the item taken. House Bill 2595 would implement specific penalties for theft of mail which includes a package, bag or letter. The grading of this offense would increase if the person has prior convictions for theft of mail, Thomas said.
Thomas said the bill was designed after consulting with Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub.
“We’ve come to count on commerce by mail in this digital age, even more so while trying to stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic,” Weintraub said. “Passage of this law specifically aimed at ‘porch piracy’ will more accurately reflect our societal values by specifically deterring these thieves through increased criminal penalties.”
A 2019 report found that 36% of Americans who shop online have had a package stolen, according to the bill’s memo circulated to house members.
“During the coronavirus pandemic, physical retailers closed their doors, Pennsylvanians sheltered in place, and more delivery workers left packages unattended on porches rather than risk an interaction with someone who has the coronavirus,” Thomas said. “As we return to work, this problem will increase.”
These types of crimes, according to local law enforcement, also spike during the holiday season too.
Under House Bill 2595, the first offense would be a summary offense provided the value of the merchandise is less than $150. If the value of the package is more than $150, or the act is a second offense, the offender would face with a second-degree misdemeanor. A third offense, regardless of the package value, would be a third-degree felony.
House Bill 2595 provides that if a person takes the mail of another person with the intent to deprive them of it, the person would commit a criminal offense, Thomas said.
The measure has been referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.