Texas strengthened its laws against residential package theft and local law enforcement officials say residential security systems can greatly increase their chances of clearing those crimes.
In late December, a 21-year-old Lake Jackson man was arrested on a class A misdemeanor charge of mail theft at fewer than 10 addresses, punishable by up to a year in jail, according to online records. This is a new law that came out of the 86th Legislature and took effect Sept. 1.
Before, theft was classified by the value of what was stolen, meaning porch package theft could result in a class C misdemeanor, the equivalent of a traffic ticket.
Under the new law, stealing mail from 10 or more addresses is now a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Those punishments can apply only if those accused are identified, something that can be assisted with home security technology.
The 21-year-old man was arrested after a woman who lives in the 600 block of Magnolia Street got a notification her UPS package was delivered Oct. 16 but found it was not there when she got home, Lake Jackson Police Sgt. Carey Lankford said.
The woman checked her surveillance cameras and saw there was a man who approached her porch, picked up the package and left in a white Honda car, Lankford said.
“She got a clear image of the man and license plate of the vehicle,” he said.
Investigators found the registered owner of the vehicle and eventually arrested the owner’s daughter’s boyfriend after identifying him as the alleged thief, Lankford said.
The man was arrested Dec. 29 and released Jan. 3 on bonds totaling $8,000, according to online records.
The high-quality camera systems people have for their homes are “really increasing the rate of success on clearing these types of cases,” Lankford said.
Security systems are more affordable now, he said.
“It makes sense and we absolutely encourage people to install these things on their home,” he said.
Brazosport Protection Systems, which has served the county and beyond with residential and commercial security systems and cameras for more than 40 years, has seen a definite increase in camera installations during the past two years, Frank Drabek said.
Drabek and Robbie Masters are partners and the only two employees of Brazosport Protection Systems, so they assure their customers they will always deal with them and never have a stranger come into their homes.
The business has always offered cameras, but “it has become a much larger part of our business, especially for residential,” Masters said.
When a customer books a consultation with the security company, they go out and see what they are looking for. They are able to recommend the placement of cameras to be the most beneficial, advise on motion alarms, door and window alarms and other security aspects, Drabek said.
“Every system we put in is a custom system,” he said.
They use a third-party system to monitor the security alarms, but residents can monitor their video footage themselves, Drabek said. This is available live through an app and recorded onto a DVR and monitor exclusively for the system, he said.
The partners see people install security systems in new houses to proactively prevent crime and to react after experiencing crime, along with other reasons, they said.
Cameras and home security systems both deter and help solve property crime after it happens, Drabek said.