SAN DIEGO — Throughout the pandemic, "porch piracy", which is packages being stolen from people's doorsteps, has skyrocketed, according to law enforcement. At this point, laws treats most of these crimes only as misdemeanors.
A California lawmaker is now taking steps to crack down on these thefts, which lead to millions of dollars in losses every year.
Nearly two thirds of all Americans have been victims of porch pirates, according to a recent survey, with 210 million packages swiped from doorsteps nationwide just last year.
With more people ordering items on-line during the pandemic, package thieves have been busier than ever.
"We have people who follow our drivers," said Bruce MacRae of UPS. "They follow Amazon drivers, follow FedEx drivers, follows post office drivers. Why? When they deliver that package on a porch, they then run right up there and get them!"
"I was heartbroken and I was mad," said Carmel Valley resident Gabriela Stichler, who one of those victims. Last year, her Ring camera captured a man swiping a package containing a T.V. set she'd ordered off her doorstep, while she and her family were away.
"It was out there for a total of 17 minutes," she previously told CBS 8. "When you have something like this happen, it shakes you... shakes you to your core."
"Package thieves have become more sophisticated," said State Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-77th AD), who unveiled a trio of Assembly bills Friday to crack down on this crime of opportunity.
The three proposals:
- AB 1698 would would establish the crime of organized package theft, when a porch pirate works in concert with at least one other person: with a potential sentence of up to one year in jail.
- AB 1699 would place a point on the driver's license of anyone who obtains a vehicle, such as a U-haul or other truck, for the purpose of committing organized package or retail theft.
- AB 1700 would create an online reporting platform for the public to report suspected stolen goods for sale on online re-selling sites.
"I think it's going to be very effective," Maienschein said. "These are now three tools that law enforcement will have that they didn't have before."
These bills would first have to pass the Assembly and State Senate in the coming months, before heading to the Governor's desk for his signature.
If passed, California would join a growing number of states clamping down on porch piracy. In New Jersey, convicted package thieves can now face three to five years behind bars. In Arkansas, it is considered a felony that can lead to six years in prison.
For some tips on how to protect yourself from porch pirates, click here.
WATCH RELATED: Tips for preventing 'porch pirate' package theft as holiday shopping starts (Nov. 2021).