KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With the holiday season upon us and with online shopping on the rise, many consumers are worried about their deliveries being stolen by porch pirates. Now, if the thieves are caught and convicted, their petty theft crime may turn out to be inconvenient. Tennessee recently enacted a tougher law for those caught stealing mail or packages.

The new mail theft law commonly referred to as the “Porch pirate law”, went into effect on July 1, 2021. It covers the theft of all classes of mail and it includes packages, not only delivered by the Postal Service, but also UPS, DHL, or FedEx.

“It defined mail as not only what someone knows to be from the US Postal Service, but it defined it as any package, any letter that was delivered to your address and not yet collected by you,” said Wendy Boles, US Postal Inspector.

Under the new amended act, the first offense of stealing mail is a misdemeanor. But if caught and convicted a second time, then you could go to jail for up to a year.

“The thing about this amendment that I like it does not depend on the value of the item taken. So before the theft of property, it was over a thousand dollars that made it a felony. Now, in regards to this new statute, the second offense of mail theft is a class E felony,” said Boles.

In 2020, US Postal Service received over 20,000 reports of mail theft. There were an additional 95,000 reports of mail not received. A significant portion of those, inspectors believe was actually theft. Boles has some tips to prevent your packages from being stolen.

“Treat your packages and mail the same. Try to collect it promptly. If you are not going to be home have a neighbor take in for you. If you are going to be on vacation if you foresee in the future, put your mail on hold. Contact the postal service and put your mail on hold.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the digital age is that not only can you buy almost anything you want online, but you can also track it online. In addition, if you shop on an eCommerce site, like Amazon, Walmart, or Home Depot, you’ll receive an email when your item is shipped, and when it’s about to arrive at your home. All of this helps cut down the possibility of someone stealing a package from your porch.