TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - On June 10, Governor Abbott signed House Bill 37, a new law raising the punishment for mail theft in the state of Texas.
“Anytime you have a theft it’s all based on value — or it has been — where you steal up to 75 dollars, it’s a Class C misdemeanor when you can get a ticket. Then over that is a Class A misdemeanor and then moves up past that,” said Andy Erbaugh, a detective with the Tyler Police Department. “So, when you have these package thefts before September 1, that’s what you were dealing with, the value of the property.”
On September 1, that new law takes effect and package thieves may want to reconsider.
“The law now is that any number of items one to nine no matter the value, is a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail,” said Erbaugh. “Whereas we used to have to go find them and give them a ticket, now they will go to jail even just stealing one package, no matter the value.”
The punishment increases for ten or more packages stolen.
“The law further goes that if you have packages from ten or more different addresses, it’s a state jail felony,” said Erbaugh. “Then 30 or more different addresses, it’s a third-degree felony.”
Erbaugh hopes and expects the new law to eventually deter package thefts.
“When laws like this are put into place it sometimes takes a while for it to make an obvious impact, but these kinds of laws do make an impact because people do these things because it’s a slap on the wrist,” said Erbaugh. “It’s you catch me, I may get a ticket. It’s something I’m not worried about, but now we catch you and you go to jail.”
Authorities still want people to take precautions with their mail and packages.
“You know the holidays are coming up, if you know you’re going to be away from your home go ahead and ask a neighbor you trust to look out for a package,” said Sean Smith, a U.S. postal inspector.
“Getting video cameras and video doorbells all help in the prosecution of these things,” said Erbaugh. “If I can get video of a license plate or put that picture on social media, neighbors can get information, anything you can do at home to help us will make this law even more powerful.”
Under the new law, convicted mail thieves can now face between 180 days in jail and ten years in prison and they can also face fines ranging from $4,000 and $10,000.
The new law also has enhancements if it’s proven that someone is purposely stealing from the elderly or disabled.