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Porch Pirates: Data, Penalties & Legal Defense


Key Findings on Porch Piracy

Since March 2020, an increasing amount of people have resorted to online shopping to better avoid going out in public and taking the risk of spreading or getting ill from COVID-19. For instance, people can order groceries, clothes, household supplies, and holiday gifts from the comfort of their own homes. In fact, government officials have encouraged Americans to purchase items online to help protect public health.

While it is a safer alternative to going out to stores, online shopping has a downside, especially during the holiday season. Porch pirates are affecting countless Americans, which explains why law enforcement agencies are cracking down on these offenders now more than ever. Porch pirates are defined as people who steal packages off of other people’s porches. Given the fact that many people are buying gifts online this holiday season, it comes as no surprise that porch piracy rates are on the rise.

A survey from Value Penguin revealed staggering statistics concerning porch piracy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following data, summarized by PRNewswire, exemplifies the magnitude and frequency of the offense:

  • “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.”

Porch piracy often occurs when packages are left unattended in plain view, and other times, porch pirates follow delivery trucks into neighborhoods and commit theft as soon as a package is delivered. Many victims of porch piracy have doorbell security cameras, and as a result, reported seeing porch pirates approach their home holding a toolbox or folder of “documents” to look like they have a valid reason for being on the property. Instead, however, they use those items as a means to commit theft without looking suspicious.

How Assembly Bill No. 5072 May Impact You

On January 1, 2020, Governor Phil Murphey signed Assembly Bill No. 5072 into law. The bill increases the charges and penalties for convicted porch pirates, therefore, if you are accused of this offense, the following penalties may get imposed:

  • Disorderly persons offense: Punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 fines.
  • Fourth-degree crime: Punishable by up to 18 months in prison and/or up to $10,000 fines.
  • Mandatory community service for up to 10 days.
  • Requirements to pay victim restitution.

Don’t let your holidays turn from merry to scary. Instead, fight your charges with the help of our Bergen County theft attorney at the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC. To learn about your legal defense options, please contact us at (201) 574-7919!

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