Porch pirates in Texas could soon face felony charges

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Texas state representative wants to increase the punishment for stealing front porch packages.

"Every single week, somebody posts video, crisp, clear video of the person, the car they drive and then their frustration that it's not being investigated. It's not being prosecuted, nobody is really going after them," said Houston Rep. Gene Wu

Emily Simons says she was living in Midtown when someone stole her delivery.

"I ordered an Amazon package, it was just about $30 and I had it on my porch for probably about four hours while I was at work, and they stole it."

We've all seen the doorbell video or home surveillance images, but still, Wu says the criminals are not caught often enough and when they are, they are they're given a slap on the wrist.

Unlike the federal law, which protects against tampering with U.S. Postal Service mail, there is little protection against stealing a delivery from a commercial carrier like Fed-Ex, UPS or Amazon.

"Most packages would fall into what we'd call a class C misdemeanor, which is like a speeding ticket," Wu said.

Which is why Wu introduced House Bill 760, increasing the punishment for stealing a clearly marked package from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony.
"There's a certain level of violation that's higher than just stealing a pack of gum," Wu told ABC13 Eyewitness News.

Homeowner Fiona Barnes is happy to see the bill introduced.

"Nowadays people have to work really hard for the things that they get. It's just not fair, it's not nice."

If the bill passes, crooks caught on camera could face up to two years in jail.

"It fits right in to somewhere between petty theft and breaking into your house or breaking into your car," Wu explained.

HB 760 does not cover theft of Christmas decorations or yard installments, only addressed packages, that include grocery delivery.

There is a parallel bill in the Texas Senate and with bi-partisan support, Wu says he is confident one of the two bills will pass this legislative session.

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