GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Professional porch pirates could face prison time as Michigan legislators look to put some teeth in the laws that cover stealing mail and packages delivered to homes.
Two bills tackling the issue passed unanimously in the state Senate this week and are expected to sail through the House on their way to the governor’s desk. They would make repeat thefts of packages a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Two years ago, 24 Hour News 8 aired the video of someone swiping a package from the porch of Kentwood resident Paul VanRandwyk in the hopes it would lead to an arrest. On Friday, we asked if the thief was found.
“No, they never caught the guy,” VanRandwyk said. “No.”
That’s not unusual, investigators say.
“Doorbell cameras are effective in at least capturing a picture of the individual who allegedly took your package. The identification of that individual is another story,” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joel Roon said.
“It’s pretty annoying to have someone steal stuff off your porch. We were fortunate it wasn’t a real valuable item,” VanRandwyk said.
“This has become a regular occurrence in our responses,” Roon said.
The United States Postal Service reports that since October, it has gotten more 5,000 complaints of stolen packages nationwide. Lawmakers sponsoring the bills say some 17,000 Amazon packages were reported stolen in Michigan over a one-year period. The Grand Rapids Police Department investigates at least one report of package theft every week with an increase around the holidays.
“It’s a problem we anticipate will only get worse, not better,” Roon said.
But even when thieves are caught, if the item stolen is worth $500 or less, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 93 days in jail. For packages worth more, the maximum is a year.
“But multiple misdemeanors can stack up under normal laws without much additional consequence,” Roon said.
The new bills would make a second offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a third offense by up to 10 years.
“Those second- and third-offense penalties tell me legislators were not fooling around on this,” Roon said.
But for someone who’s actually fallen victim to porch pirates, the penalty seems harsh.
“Jail time for something like that is a stretch … Jail should be for violent offenders and people who are a danger to society,” VanRandwyk said.