Porch Pirates

Kansas Legislature considers increasing mail theft penalties with a new amendment. 

In a hearing on Feb. 9, the Kansas House Judiciary Committee considered a measure that would increase penalties for people who are found guilty of stealing multiple packages of mail.

House Bill 2229 would amend K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-5801, and increase the penalty for anyone who is caught stealing three or more packages in a 72 hour period to a severity level 9 personal felony regardless of the value of the stolen items, according to Natalie Scott, the Assistant Revisor of Statutes for the Judiciary Committee.

“Mail includes anything sent through the United States Postal Service or another delivery service, so that's pretty open-ended there to include UPS, FedEx, any other delivery service, but it also includes any sealed article or thing addressed to a person,” Scott said.

The amendment adds the definition of “mail” to the established statute for the penalties of theft. The new language extends the same penalties that are used for shoplifters who steal from merchants in K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 21-5801 subsection (b) (5) to serial package thieves.

Rep. Dennis Highberger, D-Lawrence, said he wanted to clarify that as the law is currently written, stolen items’ value may be zero dollars and still amount to a felony. Scott said the law states any item considered of value, though no minimum value is specified. 

The penalty for theft of items with a value less than $1,500 is a class one misdemeanor, but there is no minimum value set on stolen items, Scott said.

Eric Stafford attended the hearing on behalf of the Kansas State Chamber of Commerce, which is in favor of the amendment. The bill has support from businesses across Lawrence, according to Stafford. While the bill was brought to the Chamber’s attention by a large retailer, Stafford said that he discussed the bill with smaller retailers who have an online presence.

“They share the exact same views that mail package theft is a growing trend that they're seeing and noticing that, you know when something's stolen they're needing to do what they can to replace the product for their customer,” Stafford said.

Ed Klumpp with the Kansas Peace Officers Association said hard numbers for 2020 are not yet available on package thefts, but law enforcement agencies have anecdotally reported an uptick in package thefts.

“People are using mail service now for medications and medical supplies and other things,'' Klumpp said. “Some things that may not be considered high dollar value, but certainly could have a big impact on people's lives if the receipt of those is delayed.”

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