The folks up at 23rd and Lincoln in Oklahoma City like to brag on lots of things they do. At The Constitution, we get a slew of press releases touting this accomplishment or that.
One such “accomplishment” this week, that’s passed both houses and now heads to the governor’s desk, was one of the weakest efforts at addressing a problem we’ve seen in a while: the Porch Piracy Act.
A press release about HB 2777 by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, touts that the purpose was “to strengthen penalties against those who steal mail, packages or other items out of others’ mailboxes or off porches.”
Probably no one doubts this has been a growing issue around the nation over the last five years or more. However, our first thought is, if you’re caught stealing out of someone’s mailbox, that’s a Federal offense and we expect the penalties there are far more severe.
Which brings us to the second point. Those “strengthened” penalties? If you do it twice in a 60-day period, it’s a misdemeanor, punishable by “up to one year and/or a fine of up to $500.” The third time in the same 60-day period would be classified as a felony where the penalty could be “up to two years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine.”
So, here’s the rub. Does anyone think these “tougher” penalties will deter the derelicts that resort to such behavior? Theft is still, after all, theft. If your kid leaves his bike in the front yard and someone steals it, it’s still theft, right? Something on your front porch should be no different. If an individual comes on to your property without permission, and takes something that’s not theirs from that property, that’s still theft.
This just seems to be an extension of a growing trend to try and “classify” some types of crimes as more heinous than others.
Paxton was quoted in the release as saying “This is a crime that costs businesses an estimated $9 billion annually in losses when they’re forced to replace stolen items. House Bill 2777 will give Oklahoma law enforcement and courts specific guidelines to investigate and prosecute porch piracy.”
The question is, did law enforcement really need “specific guidelines to investigate and prosecute” these criminals? We just have to wonder, were Oklahoma’s laws regarding theft of personal property so weak we had to create a special “class” for this nouveau crime?