Proposed bill would put SC porch pirates in jail for up to 15 years

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SOUTH CAROLINA (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- A proposed bill in South Carolina could have porch pirates spending 15 years in prison for the crime.

“The name porch pirates makes it seem cute, but its not a cute issue,” SC Representative Cezar McKnight said.

Rep. McKnight is turning this issue into a criminal law by proposing a bill that would make it a felony to take a package off the porch or from around the perimeter of someone’s house, punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

“Some jurisdictions have been treating it as petty larceny, making it a slap on the wrist..”

Mcknight says no more.

“A person’s home is their castle and I don’t like the idea of it being violated, whether that being coming into the inside or going onto the porch. A person’s house is sacrosanct, and it should be treated as such.”

But the proposal is receiving some pushback from inside of his party and across the aisle.

“One of the things that I’ve heard is, ‘oh it’s usually people on drugs,’ and my response to that is you have no information anecdotally or statistically to back that up,” McKnight said. “He gave the scenario in the committee meeting of ‘what I left a package out for days that my wife told me to put up and a homeless guy came and got it?’ It doesn’t matter. The homeless guy doesn’t have a right to come in your yard and go on your porch regardless of if you just put the item out there or it’s been there five years. It’s your home.”

Mcknight says his colleagues offered a suggestion that folks can send their items to a hub. But he says people shouldn’t have to do that or pay an anti-theft tax for their packages.

“Folks don’t need to have the extra stress of worrying about, ‘oh is the package that I ordered going to be at home when I get off from work?'”

Lawmakers in his party weren’t supportive of McKnight’s idea that the porch pirates would need to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. After working with them, he dropped the minimum to a judge’s discretion of no years in prison to 15 years.

Trent Faris with the York County Sheriff’s Office says deputies receive only a few formal complaints of packages stolen throughout the year.

“Especially in the neighborhoods where the houses are really close together. In the last years, we’ve had around about maybe 11 to 15,” Faris said.

He says the ring doorbell video helps them try to get some clues to who the person is, but its not often that there’s an arrest.

“Its difficult, but its not underheard of.”

McKnight feels like it should still be a criminal law in place either way.

“This is the second time that I’ve put this bill forward and I’m gonna keep putting it forward. My interest is protecting the people of South Carolina,” he said.

McKnight says he feels like if something isn’t done now, the issue will only get worse.

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