January 6, 2017
Postal Service issues tips for victims of theft
Because of several mailbox break-ins during the holiday season, United States Postal Service officials have included several tips for residents who have been victims of those incidents.
U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service public information officer Stacia Crane said Thursday that residents need to notify their local post office if their community mailboxes get damaged.
"They (postal office) will contact maintenance and have the boxes repaired. This is our busy season," Crane said in an email. "As for customers who might have had their mail stolen, It's not just about the initial theft. If a customer's mail was stolen, we ask that they monitor their accounts. In three or four weeks if they notice a transaction with their bank or credit card company they did not make, we urge them to call the Postal Inspection Service and file a report."
Mail theft is a federal offense carrying a penalty of up to five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine, she said.
"The U.S. Postal Service reaches every home and business in the country," Crane said. The vast majority of the mail it delivers arrives intact, but thieves persist in their efforts to steal it."
Isaac Barcelona, a district liaison officer for Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, said Thursday the office has taken in several complaints of the mailbox issue and is serving as a liaison between the community and the Postal Service.
"It's been rampant throughout the year in different areas," Barcelona said of the incidents. "By the time it gets to us, which means the crime has been committed, the kind of complaints that we get or the requests for assistance is from the citizens who have been vandalized and burglarized.
"The post office will replace or repair the mailboxes the first time, but they can't do it every time, so what happens is that cost then goes on to the constituents, and that's when the constituents call us and they say, 'What is going on here?' 'Why do I have to pay?' so they ask us for help. Sometimes we can mitigate that cost; other times we can't because the post office can't afford to be paying for all these crimes all the time.
"It's very, very expensive, especially the way they've vandalized them sometimes. They've ripped the concrete out, thrashed the boxes, it's horrible."
Postal inspectors encourage residents to take the following safety steps:
Use the letter slots inside your post office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don't leave it in your mailbox overnight. If you are expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
If you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you are expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
Don't send cash in the mail.
Tell your post office when you will be out of town, so it can hold your mail until you return.
Report all suspected mail theft to a U.S. postal inspector.
Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).
Consult with your local postmaster for the most up-to-date regulations on mailboxes, including the availability of locked centralized or curbside mailboxes.
Residents who see a mail thief in progress of committing a crime are encouraged to call police immediately, then call U.S. Postal Inspectors at (877) 876-2455 (press 3).
Residents also can report mail theft on-line at postalinspectors.uspis.gov.