It is a federal criminal offense to tamper with the mail. So no matter how delightful and intriguing the neighbor's deliveries seem, avoid the temptation to pilfer a package from their porch because you're short on Christmas gifts.
Theft of a letter, post card, package, bag, or mail from a US post office or a collection center associated with USPS is subject to fines and up to five years imprisonment, according to the United States Code, Section 1708. Receiving mail that was stolen is similarly punishable.
The United States Postal Inspection Service is the federal law enforcement and security arm of the Postal Service. It has 3,000 Postal Inspectors and Postal Police Officers charged with safeguarding the nation's mail system and combating mail theft and fraud.
The Service has 1,600 Postal Inspectors who investigate postal-related crime, such as identity theft, mail bombs, postal robberies, and burglaries. In an average year, postal police make about 10,000 arrests of criminal suspects, they say. Many of the arrests are for mail theft or possession of stolen mail.
Additionally, the Inspectors respond to an average of 900 postal-related assaults and threats, leading to hundreds of arrests. The Service investigates roughly 3,000 mail fraud cases and about 4,000 reports of suspicious substances and items in the mail, including mail bombs. According to the Service, "the overwhelming majority of incidents are nonhazardous."
The United States mail belongs to the federal government and is protected by it. But that does not mean that you can steal from other delivery services. Although not all packages come with the heft of the feds behind them, it is still a crime to steal.
Last year, a Texas woman caught a man stealing a package from her porch on camera. "Just backed up like they belonged here. Gentleman comes out the back of the car, grabs the package, puts it in the car and they leave," explained the theft victim. The thief was later arrested and charged with theft.
If you do end up charged with theft of mail or any other crime, do contact a criminal defense attorney. Counsel can defend you, whether or not you are guilty.