Porch pirates in Wisconsin could face a lot more trouble if they steal packages next Christmas. 

Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, is pushing a new law that would allow local prosecutors to roll a series of package thefts into one, and increase the penalty for stealing packages. 

“On the news every night we see stories about packages being stolen from front porches and, because of how our laws are currently structured, many times the criminals only receive a simple forfeiture for the crime,” Hutton said.

“It’s certainly a situation where the penalty didn’t seem to correspond with the crime” Hutton said. “After looking at how other states had responded to these types of crimes, we developed a Wisconsin specific solution to target criminals who were exploiting this loophole.”

The old way of charging porch pirates led to a lot of smaller charges, or in some cases no charges at all because mail theft falls under federal law. 

Hutton said he wants to simplify the law for prosecutors to reflect the reality of package theft in 2020. 

“The federal law seems to specifically apply to anything delivered by the USPS and left upon or adjacent to a collection box or other authorized depository of mail,” Hutton said. “This doesn’t seem to include packages left on porches by Amazon, UPS, FedEx, or any other private delivery service. Those thefts were being prosecuted under our current theft statutes which required theft from each separate owner to be charged as a different crime.” 

Hutton said his bill “is written to be inclusive of any letter, postcard or package taken from a residence or building. We also included language to be able to charge thefts from multiple owners under one crime as long as the thefts were part of one course of action.”

A recent report said one in four people across the United States have had a package taken by thieves. 

Hutton says that number surprised him, but rings true after all of the research he’s put into his proposal. 

“It’s a constant challenge for us as lawmakers to keep up with the rapidly developing sophisticated schemes. We have seen the private sector take the lead in identifying the criminals through the increase of video doorbells in neighborhoods. Now it’s our job to make sure the punishment fits the crime once those criminals are identified and arrested,” Hutton said. 

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.

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