South Bay assemblyman proposes bill to bring tougher penalties on porch piracy

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- If you haven't fallen victim to porch piracy, you've at least seen videos of crooks stealing packages from outside homes.

A new bill introduced by Campbell-based Assemblyman Evan Low would put a spotlight on the problem.

Low explained Assembly Bill 1210 would essentially update California's current laws to match the changing times-- when so many people are shopping online and getting deliveries to their doorsteps.

RELATED: Person dressed in delivery driver uniform caught stealing packages in San Francisco

"A criminal could steal up to 10 packages from 10 different homes on the same day," Low told ABC7 News. "And so long as those items are worth less than $950, they could only be charged with a misdemeanor."

With AB 1210, criminal penalties would no longer be tied to the value of what is stolen, rather the actions of the repeat offender. This could mean jail time.

"We do not want to increase incarceration," Low added, "But this is a tool to allow for prosecutors to have options, depending on past criminal history, to charge accordingly in hopes to prevent further victimization."

The bill would prosecute porch package thefts as burglaries, and would expand the section of the state penal code to now include all areas attached to a home. Areas where deliveries can be left and lifted.

"Currently, right now, you have to break into someone's home," Low added. "But we know that the theft happens outside on the porch, or what we refer to as 'curtilage,' the adjacent areas around the home."

Low continued, "The bill attempts to update our laws to show that people will be charged with a 'wobbler,' or misdemeanor or felony depending on the determination of past criminal history."

Jasdeep Singh told ABC7 News he's hopeful but understands there are plenty of issues associated with enforcement.

Singh and his family have fallen victim to porch piracy. Standing outside of his Communications Hill home, he said, "It's kind of easy for anybody just walking by to snag something here."

The Singh family had a package stolen from their porch in mid-December.

"Around the holidays, when this instance happened, there's just constantly trucks out here, delivering packages," he said. "They're all just sitting out here on the front porch, just waiting for the owner to get home... hopefully. But sometimes that doesn't happen."

Singh has since installed a security camera to catch future criminal activity.

RELATED: Woman chases down porch pirate, gets package back

"It's very disappointing. This is supposed to be your safety area," he said. "You should be able to leave a kids' bicycle sitting out, but you'll probably notice nobody keeps anything around that's not bolted down."

A 2018 Shorr Packaging study found six California cities made the top 20 list of cities with the most stolen packages. San Francisco ranked number one in the nation, Oakland and San Jose also made the list.

While Low's bill would focus on shipped packages, many told ABC7 News they are worried about other valuables snatched from their property.

San Jose resident Ming Lin shared a video with ABC7 News which showed a man ignoring his cameras, and coming straight for his bike.

"The guy cut it, just the cable and took the bike away," Lin said. "That guy just ignored everything! Didn't care about the camera."

Assemblyman Low said other property is something to consider, though it is not part of the current proposal.

"The story is a perfect example-- continued victimization without the type of repercussions is unacceptable," Low said. "We will work to address this problem moving forward in the state legislature."

A summary of the bill explained it would give judges a wider range of options to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. The release goes on to explain the bill could deter many people from engaging in this behavior.

"If an additional 10-percent of perpetrators are dissuaded from the behavior, this bill will result in thousands of fewer victims," the summary said.

Low concluded, "This is an invasion of privacy and it's an offense that we need to accommodatingly address."

The state Assembly's Public Safety Committee will hear the bill in April.

The California District Attorneys Association (sponsor), Amazon, the California State Sheriff's Association, and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office are in support of Low's proposed bill.
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