Porch Piracy Is Illegal: Here’s What You Need to Know
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have resorted to online shopping for virtually everything, from groceries to household items to medication, and much more. With the sharp rise in delivery rates during the pandemic, porch pirates have become a growing concern among consumers and law enforcement agencies alike.
Porch pirates are people who steal packages delivered to front doorsteps, or porches. Porch piracy has become a growing trend amid the pandemic and may continue to soar once things return back to normal. As California slowly reopens, people are going back to work and school and spending more time outside of their homes, which creates opportunities for porch pirates.
While many homeowners have installed doorbell cameras, which have captured plenty of theft offenses that subsequently made news headlines, the police are also on high alert for suspected porch pirates.
Porch Pirates Statistics
A survey from ValuePenguin.com by LendingTree revealed that 18% of Americans have experienced package theft between March and June of 2020, speculating that these short-term thefts are part of a larger problem that consumers face in a normal year. Key findings from the survey include:
- 1 in 5 Americans reported being victims of porch piracy amid the coronavirus crisis with 18% having had a package or delivery stolen since March. 54% of consumers reported multiple package thefts in the past 12 months. And 33% knew someone who's had a package stolen during the quarantine.
- Americans lost an average of $106 to porch piracy, with respondents reporting losses as high as $4,800 from a single package. About 30% of package theft victims did not get all of their money back, and less than half of victims said the thief was caught.
- During the pandemic, Gen Xers and Millennials accounted for more than 42% of package thefts, and 64% of incidents since last year. However, Americans 75 years and older lost the most money to porch piracy – an average of $210 in the past 12 months.
- 40% of package thefts happened to residents of apartment buildings. Residents of duplex homes were also likely to experience theft: more than one-quarter of the package thefts during the pandemic happened to residents of duplex homes.
- 57% of stolen packages were delivered by Amazon. Groceries delivered by services like HelloFresh and Instacart made up 14% of stolen packages, but grocery package thefts decreased during the pandemic, despite the increase in the use of these services.
- Despite the increase in package theft, 33% of consumers have taken no action to prevent package thefts within the past year. About 35% of all residents who did take precautions opted to receive tracking notifications – the most common preventative measure – while 20% installed doorbell cameras. Other measures, like requiring signatures upon delivery, and purchasing package delivery insurance, were not so common.
- According to Andrew Hurst, a research analyst at ValuePenguin.com, "The quarantine has become the perfect opportunity for porch pirates, with home delivery orders increasing by nearly 40% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic." He adds, "It's worrying that a significant number of Americans are not taking the appropriate measures to protect themselves against future thefts."
The Police Are Cracking Down on Porch Pirates
In February of 2021, Senate Bill 358 was introduced to enhance criminal charges for porch pirates who have two or more convictions of misdemeanor package theft within a 3-year period. Stealing a package is a misdemeanor punishable by up 1 one year in jail, but if SB 358 passed, stealing a package would have been a felony punishable by longer incarceration.
However, SB 358 did NOT pass into law, but we bring this to your attention because the California State Sheriffs’ Association supported a similar bill that was introduced in 2020.
The Association said in a statement, “Increasingly, criminals have been stealing packages delivered at the doorsteps of homes. Because these package contents are often valued under the $950 grand theft threshold or the offender may not enter the dwelling to complete the act, individuals engaging in this criminal activity are generally not subject to significant punishment that could deter them from engaging in this activity.”
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the 2020 bill, which was similar to SB 358, stating that it is already a crime to steal a package off a porch. “Indeed, depending on the circumstances, a person could be convicted of trespassing; attempted grand theft; attempted petty theft; or attempted receipt of stolen property. If the person actually takes the package, they can be convicted of a slew of other crimes, including grand theft; petty theft; and mail theft,” the ACLU said.
Although SB 358 is not a law and was merely a proposal, California law enforcement made it clear that they support harsher punishments for convicted porch pirates. The police also recognize the increase in porch piracy rates and believe that even if contents in a package don’t exceed the $950 minimum to warrant grand theft charges, tough punishments are needed to deter offenders.
As such, if you were accused of stealing a package from someone’s porch, we urge you to give us a call right away at (805) 467-6060 to get started on your defense. You don’t deserve to lose your freedom over a mere accusation, so our lawyers will fight tirelessly to maintain your innocence. We look forward to hearing from you.