by Victor Skinner
A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to increase penalties for porch pirates amid a surge in thefts of packages left for delivery.
“With the ongoing pandemic, online purchases have skyrocketed,” Rep. Wendi Thomas, R-Bucks, said.
Data shows criminals are taking notice.
Thomas cited a 2019 report that found more than one-third of Americans who have ordered items online have had their packages stolen, while a separate survey in 2021 estimated the value of stolen packages to be about $210 million.
The situation prompted Thomas to partner with Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub to do something about it. Current law bases penalties for mail fraud on the value of the items stolen, but forthcoming legislation from Thomas aims to create specific crimes for porch pirates that takes into account prior offenses.
“As we’ve come to depend on commerce by mail in this digital age, package theft is growing, and that’s creating a need for a law specifically aimed at ‘porch piracy’ to more accurately reflect our societal values and deter these thieves through increased criminal penalties,” Weintraub said.
Thomas’ bill would create penalties for theft of mail involving a package, bag or letter that would result in a summary charge for a first offense involving merchandise valued at less than $150. If the merchandise is worth more than $150, or the act is a second offense, the potential penalty would increase to a second-degree misdemeanor.
A third offense under the legislation would result in a third-degree felony, regardless of value.
A 2021 Package Theft Statistics Report from C+R Research asked 2,000 customers with at least one online purchase over the past year about their purchasing habits and experiences with porch pirates from the start of the year through early November.
About half of the respondents told researchers they receive a package at least once per month, while about 38% reported weekly deliveries. About one-quarter (23%) reported the theft of at least one package in 2021, while one-third of those victims reported multiple thefts.
Sixty percent told researchers they know someone who had a package stolen during the holidays.
Online shoppers are getting savvier, however, with many utilizing recommended ways to avoid the headache.
About 27% of shoppers told pollsters they send packages to their workplace or a relative’s home to avoid theft, and another 42% reportedly stay home to meet the delivery driver when they’re expecting a package. Eighty-five percent said they track their packages throughout the delivery process.
“We found almost half (46%) of respondents are concerned about the eventual theft of their online purchases, while approximately one-third (32%) go so far as to avoid ordering expensive items online out of fear that those deliveries will eventually be stolen,” according to the report.
Regardless, 73% of those surveyed said they’ve ordered more items online during the pandemic than before.
“Specifically, over one-quarter (28%) said they plan on placing more online orders this holiday season,” C+R Research reported.
– – –