TRENTON — Proposed legislation to combat thieves stealing packages from properties around New Jersey has gotten new attention amid a surge in home deliveries during the holiday season and the continued pandemic.

Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, is among the primary sponsors of the latest version of the measure dubbed "Defense Against Porch Pirates Act," which was introduced in March after a similar bill stalled in January.

The measure approved by the Judiciary Committee on Monday would upgrade the theft of any package valued at less than $75,000 delivered to a home as a third-degree crime, which can be be punished by three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Under existing law, the theft of anything valued between $200 and $500 currently is considered a fourth-degree crime, which carries the potential for fines up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison.

A person caught stealing a package valued under $200 right now can be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which is what state law considers a misdemeanor offense.

The proposed law would make it harder for common package thieves to escape with just a slap on the wrist although there is no guarantee that a crook convicted of a third-degree crime will be sent to prison.

 

In discussing the legislation on Monday, Assembly members noted that such brazen thieves appear "unfazed" by the growing popularity of home surveillance cameras and that the potential upgraded penalties could help address a serious issue.

Video footage from a Ring doorbell at a home in Central Jersey was posted to the service's "neighbors" online forum back in September.

The video shows a package, just delivered, being picked up by a man in a facial covering and ball cap, as he hustles back to the open passenger door of a waiting sedan, which drives away.

With previous reporting by Michael Symons and David Matthau

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