Legislation cracks down on ‘porch pirates’

by Cristin Parker cristin@thecherokeean.com

It’s not just virtual thieves online shoppers have to watch out for these days.

‘Porch piracy’ – when culprits steal parcels and packages left at the door – is on the rise.

“During the holiday season, it is not uncommon for packages to be left unaccompanied on front porches and other locations that are easily accessible to potential thieves,” explains the website, hg.org. “Theft of such packages is a crime of opportunity. For some individuals, the lure of an unaccompanied package is too much to resist. However, taking packages can result in serious consequences.”

A new law went into effect on Sept.1, pertaining to mail thefts in Texas.

“This new law is especially pertinent since we are coming up on the Christmas season and the likelihood that these crimes will increase,” officials with the Smith County Sheriff’s Department stated in a release sent to the Cherokeean Herald.

The new law makes any theft of mail, at minimum, a class A misdemeanor and can go up to a third degree felony.

According to this law, mail is described as a letter, postal card, package, bag or other sealed article that is delivered by a common carrier or delivery service and not yet received by the addressee; or has been left to be collected for delivery by a common carrier or delivery service.

According to the UPS’s website, during the 2019 peak holiday season -- running Nov. 29 through Dec. 30 – the company expects to deliver an average of 32 million packages and documents per day – a 60 percent increase over the 20 million delivered on an average, non-peak day.

“Media attention related to theft involving UPS and other deliveries has increased due to expanded use of video surveillance technology available to consumers,” UPS Public Relations representative Dawn Wotapka said. “If a consumer believes they have experienced package theft from their residence, we suggest the receiver call their local authorities to file a police report and contact the original shipper to assess opportunity for reimbursement or reshipment.

“Customers can also contact UPS and we will work with the shipper of the package. It is also important to remember if UPS has completed the delivery, which includes driver-released deliveries to residences, UPS is not automatically responsible to reimburse the cost of the shipment.”

If customers have concerns about the security of their residential deliveries they have options:

- Have the shipment sent to where they are – not where they aren’t. In other words, if they are at work during the day they can have packages delivered to where they work. They can also choose to have things sent to a relative or neighbor who is home during the day.

- They can tell our driver where they would like UPS packages left, for example, in the shed in the back yard, or behind the garage, etc. UPS drivers can enter that information into their handheld computers for future deliveries.

- Consumers can sign up for the free UPS My Choice® service which sends a text message or email the day before a package arrives to let customer know when their package is going to be delivered.

UPS My Choice can help registered members decide when and how their packages are delivered and avoid those “sorry we missed you” notices left on their door.

If the initial delivery time doesn’t work, there are options to reschedule or reroute the package for a small fee.

What can residents do to help law enforcement?
- Be vigilant of the neighborhood and surroundings. If you see anyone acting suspiciously around your neighborhood, call your local law enforcement agency. If possible, obtain a suspect/vehicle description and a license plate number.

- Do not attempt to apprehend or detain anyone you suspect has committed these crimes. Get to know your neighbors and make it a point to check on one another. Also, the use of home video surveillance equipment can help identify perpetrators and can be a deterrent as well.