Tips to Protect Yourself From Porch Pirates

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A new state law strengthens the penalties for package theft at people's homes. (Photo courtesy of UPSCapital.com)

By ANDREW J. LUCA

Most of us enjoy the convenience of buying items online but cannot ignore the increasing risk of theft occurring just beyond our front doors.

Thanks to a new law, your digital purchases are now a bit safer following New Jersey’s recent strengthening of its Porch Pirate law, which became effective Jan. 18, 2022. The act, also known as A-3870, was originally introduced by legislators in March 2020 following the “Stay at Home” orders issued by Gov. Phil Murphy to combat the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Jersey’s prior “front-door theft” law was inconsistently prosecuted as a third-degree offense if the stolen packages delivered to residences by a cargo carrier were valued at less than $75,000, but above $500.

Offenders charged under this earlier law received varying levels of punishment, including a mere “disorderly persons offense” and brief imprisonment, if at all, and/or a $1,000 fine.

The new law, passed unanimously by both New Jersey’s Assembly and the Senate, removes the theft’s minimum value requirement. Under the new law, any theft from your doorstep of a package worth less than $75,000 (or an undetermined amount) is by law a third-degree offense.

Penalties for being a New Jersey “Porch Pirate” are now a jail sentence between three and five years, a fine up to $15,000, or both.

While the state’s prosecutorial ability has been strengthened to impose greater punishments upon porch thieves, this law’s intent, as with most laws, is to deter criminal acts.

Just as we lock our doors at night and use a home security system to protect ourselves and our belongings from crime, there are additional steps we can take to further discourage our deliveries from being stolen off our front steps.

Here are a few recommendations to consider:

  • Use a Ring Camera or similar device to record and alert you of activity at your home’s exterior and be sure to advertise your use of this device, either with a posted sign or a door decal.
  • Place a plastic or resin storage chair or bench outside your front door with visible instructions to delivery persons to lift the seat and place your delivery inside – this prevents your package(s) from being seen from the street or passersby. An example is Suncoast’s 31-Gallon outdoor chair sold at Walmart.com.
  • When buying from Amazon or similar online establishments, consider having your order delivered to the retailer’s own secure facilities such as locally placed “Lockers” or “Hubs.” The link to Amazon’s page for non-home delivery options is https://www.amazon.com/ulp.
  • Contact your delivery carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc.) using their website and change the day, time or location of your package’s destination to one more convenient for you or other household members. The webpages to make these changes to UPS or FedEx deliveries are https://www.ups.com/us/en/support/tracking-support/change-delivery-options.page and https://ask.fedex.com/help/en-es/sending-receiving/reroute-my-package

The law in New Jersey has been improved to punish those criminals who rob us of our purchases before we even get a chance to open them. Employing the above suggestions will assist you in protecting your new merchandise from theft and helps you avoid the inconvenience, cost and frustration of being a target of Porch Pirates.

About the Author: Andrew J. Luca, Esquire is a co-founding member of the CKL Law Group, LLP and has been practicing Real Estate and Consumer Fraud law in New Jersey for nearly 20 years.