'Porch pirates' targeted for harsher punishment in Texas lawmakers' proposals

Two Texas state lawmakers have proposed bills that would make package theft, also known as "porch piracy," a jail felony in the state, a report said.

Bills proposed in the state House and Senate would prosecute accused package thieves the same as if they were home burglars, the Houston Chronicle reported. The legislation's sponsors are state Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, and state Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio.

"It's easy pickings," Sgt. Eugenio Gonzalez of the Houston Police Department's burglary and theft division, said of porch piracy crimes, which tend to increase during the holiday season, according to the paper.


Theft of 10 or fewer pieces of mail would be a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in prison, according to the filings, the paper reported. Theft of more than 10 but fewer than 50 items would be a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, the report said.

Theft of 50 or more items would be a second-degree felony with a 20-year maximum prison sentence, according to the paper.

If passed, the bills would take effect in 2019, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The current punishment for any theft depends on the value of the stolen property, with any theft worth fewer than $2,500 treated as a misdemeanor and greater than that amount considered a felony, according to the Texas Penal Code.

News outlets have been filled in recent weeks with stories of porch piracy. On Christmas Day in Colorado, for example, homeowner Renee Abeyta chased down another woman who swiped a package from her front porch. Abeyta also captured the entire encounter on video.

San Francisco has also been dealing with porch piracy, making the term "Amazon package stolen" the most frequently searched phrase on Google in the city, reports said.