New Jersey could soon have a new law that aims to crack down on “porch pirate” crimes.

To stop the ongoing wave of pack thefts that started when the pandemic began, the Assembly has unanimously passed a measure that increases the penalties for stealing a package from a front porch, a lawn or anyplace else on someone’s property.

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Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, said right now this type of crime is treated as a misdemeanor, but his Defense Against Porch Pirate Act would make theft of a delivered package a third-degree crime, punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.

Hold them accountable

“The thieves that are actually robbing these products should be held accountable, we’re looking to protect all of our residents in the state, this is a human issue,” he said.

He pointed out over the past 20 months online shopping has increased dramatically and “tens of thousands of packages a day are being delivered.”

A recent survey finds roughly 14% of Americans report being victims of porch pirate crimes over the past year, losing an estimated $5.4 billion in goods.

Karabinchak noted the bill specifies stealing a package from your house a third-degree crime “whether it’s your front porch, whether it’s from your garage, whether it’s anywhere on your property and it’s less than $75,000 in value.”

He said under the proposed legislation stealing an item worth more than $75,000 would be upgraded to a second-degree crime.

Should someone who swipes a package go to jail?

“Obviously we’re leaving that up to the judicial system and the judges, the most important thing is restitution to the people that were actually inflicted," he said.

Karabinchak said hopefully this legislation will soon be passed by the State Senate and quickly signed into law, but in the meantime New Jersey residents can protect themselves, as he has, by installing a video surveillance system at their front door.

“We see the people that drop off the packages, and if somebody was there to rob a package that information can be given over to the local police,” he said.

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, a co-sponsor of the measure, said “stronger penalties can help discourage package thieves and also ensure the penalties under the law match the severity of the crime.”

What's the next step?

The state Senate Budget Committee could consider the Porch Pirate Act when they meet Jan. 6.

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