The holidays bring a flurry of activity. Packages are delivered, and presents are left in cars while shopping continues. Because of the ample opportunity, thieves are on high alert during the holidays, but so are the police.
While Texas has one of the highest rates of theft during the holiday season in the entire country, there are more ways for a holiday thief to get caught than ever before — especially with the latest in anti-theft technologies.
Three Common Types of Holiday Theft in Texas
So what exactly does Texas holiday theft look like? There are three primary types of holiday theft prevalent across the state: residential, vehicle, and retail theft. Let’s take a closer look…
Residential theft occurs when something is stolen from a victim’s residential property — inside or outside the house. You may be charged with residential theft when you take something from a Texan’s front porch, in or near their mailbox, or on the front lawn.
Texas residential theft is actually becoming more common during the holiday months. In fact, in Houston alone, residential theft has increased by 80% just in the past three years.
Another common type of theft, especially around the holidays, is vehicle theft. This occurs when somebody steals property from within a vehicle, whether it’s unlocked or not.
This crime is especially likely to occur in the parking lots of malls and other shopping centers. When the shopping area has quick access to a highway, it makes an especially good location for thieves.
Of course, retail theft is always another prevalent theft crime during the holiday season. This includes actually taking items from a merchant without paying for it. It can also apply to any inappropriate merchandise returns/exchanges, tampering of security devices, or tampering with the price tag of an item.
Additionally, walking off with somebody else’s purchase, even if you think they left it behind and aren’t coming back for it, can be theft.
Texas Cracks Down on Holiday Thieves
Because of the rise in criminal activity during the holidays, Texans (law enforcement and otherwise) are responding to meet it.
- Agencies across the state are utilizing magnetic GPS trackers to track down porch pirates and other thieves.
- Smart technology, such as security cameras and video doorbells, have helped to deter thieves, or even track them down after a package has been stolen.
- Exasperated victims of late have also been known to set up bait packages, with an unpleasant surprise waiting inside for thieves.
If you’re considering other’s holiday purchases as a way to create your own holiday cheer this year, we recommend thinking twice. Otherwise, you may wind up paying more than just the price of those stolen items.
Consequences of Texas Holiday Thievery
If you are caught unlawfully taking property this holiday season with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of it, chances are, you’ll face theft charges. Know there are a variety of penalties that can occur, depending on the value of the items stolen.
Misdemeanor Theft Penalties
While sometimes the circumstances surrounding an incident of theft (or even the stolen item itself) can change the sentence, any theft of items valued at less than $1,500 total is classified as a misdemeanor.
A conviction on these charges could result in some jail time (no more than a year) and/or a fine of no more than $4,000.
Penalties for Felony Theft
Felony theft, on the other hand, is charged when the value of goods stolen exceeds $1,500. IF convicted, you could face a state prison sentence of up to 99 years and/or a fine of $20,000, $200,000, or more.
Keep your holidays happy this year, and avoid holiday thievery. As merchants, shoppers, and police are on high alert, you don’t want to get caught in the middle.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.