House panel approves Runestad bill to curb mail theft

LANSING, Mich. — The state House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad that would crack down on the skyrocketing problem of mail theft in Michigan.

Senate Bill 23 would create state penalties for mail theft that mirror federal penalties to allow more options for state prosecution of these crimes.

“Currently, it is too easy for criminals to commit mail theft, and the punishments are too soft,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “As a result, this crime continues to rise. We must put harsher penalties in place to get mail theft under control.”

The Senate also unanimously approved SB 24, Sen. Peter Lucido’s companion legislation to Runestad’s measure.

2018 is expected to be a record year for mail theft in Michigan, and while there are federal penalties in place, Runestad said they aren’t effective.

“Unless a case of mail theft also involves identity theft, the federal government is not going to prioritize that crime for investigation and prosecution,” Runestad said. “Tougher state laws and penalties against this crime will be a much more effective deterrent. The penalties in this legislation are quite reasonable and will allow local law enforcement to do their job.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard provided testimony to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee in support of the legislation.

“While the United States Postal Inspectors do a great job with their investigations, they are often overwhelmed with the complaints due to the large volume of theft which is occurring,” Bouchard said. “Having the ability to enforce mail theft penalties will be helpful for both law enforcement and victims of this type of crime.”

Runestad said he and Lucido have been in discussions with Bouchard and other stakeholders to allow for mail theft crime rings to be prosecuted under the racketeering statute.

Over the past year, the legislators have worked with the Prosecuting Attorney Association of Michigan, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Michigan State Police, local law enforcement, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to seek solutions to the problem of mail theft.

SBs 23 and 24 now head to the full House for further consideration.