Porch piracy would become a felony — if this Texas bill becomes law

Police have tried bait packages, and individuals have tried bobby-trapping them to hold the porch pirates at bay.

But could statehouses legislate away thieves’ motivation to run up and steal packages?

Stealing a package from someone’s porch winds up being a misdemeanor the vast majority of the time in Texas, and in every other state that bases the punishment for theft on the value of the property stolen. In Texas, theft isn’t a felony unless the value of the stolen property is $1,500 or more.

And that’s only when a suspect is prosecuted.

One Texas state legislator wants to change that. State Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) introduced House Bill 760 this week, which would make stealing a clearly-labeled package from someone’s front porch a state jail felony.

He told KTRK that as the law stands now, most package thefts are treated as Class C misdemeanors, “like a speeding ticket.”

“Package theft has been on the rise in recent years due to the increased market share of online shopping and home delivery services,” Wu said in a news release. “Despite frequently having clear videos documenting the theft, these acts often go uninvestigated, and the offenders go unpunished. I hope that this legislation can encourage prosecutions and deter would-be thieves who don’t think the police would ever bother.

“As a lawmaker, I am always hesitant to increase criminal penalties, but this is a different situation. The current law is based on the value of the property stolen and not the nature of the theft.”

Thirty-one percent of respondents to a 2017 survey from Schorr Packaging said they had experienced package theft personally. In the same survey, 92 percent of the 1,000 respondents said they prefer to ship their packages to their home.

“Additionally, stealing packages from a victim’s own home is much more of a personal violation of a victim than compared to stealing a six-pack of beer from the gas station,” Wu said in the release. “More and more Texans are having their groceries, prescriptions, and daily items delivered straight to their door. Many of these thefts are taking place during work hours, when upstanding citizens are working hard to provide these delivered goods for their families. I want to ensure hardworking Texans are protected from these porch pirates.”

Cezar McKnight, a South Carolina state representative who represents parts of Williamsburg and Clarendon counties, introduced similar legislation there in January, according to WHNS.

Matt is an award-winning real time reporter and a University of Texas at Austin graduate who’s been based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 2011. His regional focus is Texas, and that makes sense. He’s only lived there his whole life.