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Consumer Alert: Lawmakers look to crack down on porch pirates

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Lawmakers are tiring of so-called porch pirates, thieves who walk onto people's property and steal packages that were left on doorsteps.

As News 12 reported in a Consumer Alert back in January, 1 in 3 Americans has fallen victim to delivery thieves.

"The worst part of it is the thief doesn’t even know what he’s stealing,” says New Jersey Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak. “He’s just talking a box without knowing what it is. It could be somebody’s medication."

Karabinchak saw News 12’s Consumer Alert, and has introduced a bill in the state to dramatically increase the penalties for porch piracy. Stealing something worth less than $200 would be punishable by 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If the item is worth $200 or more, a porch pirate could get three to five years behind bars and a $15,000 fine.

MORE: Kane In Your Corner podcast: What to know when buying a car - listen here 

"Nobody wants to go to jail for a box where they didn’t even know what they’re stealing," says Karabinchak.

Connecticut's law is more lenient. Porch piracy there is usually punishable by three months behind bars or a $500 fine.

New York hasn't tacked the issue specifically, but its larceny laws are notoriously tough. Stealing an item worth up to $1,000 could get a porch pirate one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. If the item is worth more than $1,000, the punishment leaps to between 8 1/2 and 25 years in prison.

Of course, a porch pirate has no idea of the value of what they’re stealing until they open the package. But with customers getting fed up and lawmakers getting tough, stealing the wrong box could be a costly decision.

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