Lawmakers propose potential prison time penalty for porch pirates

Package thefts are a growing problem in many Bay Area cities. Now, some South Bay lawmakers want harsher penalties including possible prison time for so-called porch pirates.

You’ve seen the videos plastered on social media and Next Door, home cameras capturing thieves swiping packages right off porches time and time again.

“Just no regard, just walking up, just stealing someone's package, it’s pretty brazen,” said Judy Coelho of Campbell. 

Typically, the criminals are issued a citation. South Bay Assemblyman Evan Low wants to change that.

“I’ve been a victim, my cousin has been a victim, neighbors have been victims, it's almost as if a week doesn't go by I don't a post on Facebook even with the evidence,” said Low. 

With help from Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, the two authoring State Bill 1210 cracking down on porch piracy. 

“I would say that porch piracy is the new residential burglary,” said Rosen. 

Right now, the law considers the crime petty theft, a misdemeanor with at most six months in jail, which Rosen said rarely happens. The new law enables the crime to be charged as a felony, which could mean prison time depending on the suspect's criminal history and if they're a repeat offender.

“I think the way the law is currently, a petty theft doesn't capture the sense of vulnerability and security that's shattered
when someone takes something inches from your front door,” said Rosen. 

“I think it's a much needed change in the law,” said Campbell Police Captain Gary Berg. 

Campbell Police baits and tracks thieves with packages with GPS devices hidden inside. Captain Berg said this week, police arrested a package thief with a rap sheet.

“The person we had last night was under the influence of drugs, in possession of drugs, had a warrant,” said Captain Berg. 

Critics of the bill worry the new law could lead to more jail overcrowding. Many people argue the law needs to reflect the times.

“I like a felony simply because it's a deterrent,” said Coelho. “Right now if you get a slap on the hand they continue to do it, it seems to be on the rise and no one is doing anything about it.”

The bill now goes before the Public Safety Committee in the State Assembly. If passed, by both the State Senate and Assembly, it could go into effect at the end of this year.