SAN ANTONIO — The season of giving is also the season of thieving for some grinches, and a law that took effect September 1 is making it easier for authorities to get the grinches off the streets.

Captain Esteban Zuniga of the Castle Hills Police Department said House Bill 37 not only stiffens the punishment for porch pirates, it allows local law enforcement to investigate the cases and refer them for prosecution at the state level.

Before the law took effect, law enforcement had to send mail theft cases to the Postmaster General.

“You’ll have an outcome of that case a lot sooner than if you would on the other level as far as with the postmaster general,” Zuniga said.

The U.S. Postal Service reported that this week is their busiest week of the year, delivering an average of 28 million packages a day. While porch pirates may capitalize on the spike in deliveries, this is the first year where the punishment is steeper, allowing authorities to arrest the culprits, versus issuing a citation. 

“It sends the message that now you’re not going to just walk away," Zuniga said. "You’re going to be arrested and charged with a crime.”

The new law makes mail theft anywhere between a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, up to a third degree felony, which is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The charge varies based on how many people are stolen from:

  • (1)  a Class A misdemeanor if the mail is appropriated from fewer than 10 addressees
  • (2)  a state jail felony if the mail is appropriated from at least 10 but fewer than 30 addressees
  • (3)  a felony of the third degree if the mail is appropriated from 30 or more addressees.

Zuniga said the best way to avoid becoming a victim of theft is to anticipate the arrival of the package. 

“Track the history on it," Zuniga said. "Kind of expect -- know when the package is going to be arriving at the residence. That way, they know they can be there at the house to receive that package.”

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