Does Anyone Have the Key to Solving Mailbox Crime in California?

Neighbors are neighbors, even if they’re 3,000 miles away on another coast.  What happens in their community concerns me as much as if it was happening in my own community.  Thank goodness for Facebook, which makes keeping in touch with them as easy as clicking my mouse.  What one former neighbor who now lives in San Jose, Calif., reported was particularly alarming.

J H

March 1, 2017· 3 hrs ·

I Must Vent! Someone broke into my street’s mailbox units….again! This is getting to be too common and beyond frustrating. Looking for 401K information I’m sure. This sucks. Neighbor’s identities were stolen last year after our mailbox unit was broken into, and the kicker… they break into it during the day! I need an outdoor camera that can handle getting wet and the battery life needs to last a long time. The one I have is not up to par. Please any suggestions would be great!

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4228 R K and 7 others

 Comments

S R Talk to J M about the correct firearms for the house

Like · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs

B H That happens all the time at my house. Jim and mom’s mail was stolen twice. The second time, Jim had welded a cast iron locking mail box to a metal post and cemented it in the ground. They dug up the post and took the whole thing! I get mail delivered to the shop because of it…

Like · Reply · 3 hrs · Edited

B H replied · 2 Replies · 3 hrs

J C Oh no. That happened when I was living in apartments a few years ago. This time of the year, they are looking for tax refund checks. Can you have a wired one that can see the street?

Like · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs

J H replied · 1 Reply

 

J W Jens we did away with the Arlo cameras. Given how much motion they ended up detecting, we were going thru batteries every few weeks. I’ll offer Steve the cam’s we’re not using any more. Maybe you can install one a lot closer to the mailbox? We stepped up to the new Nest weatherproof cameras. Much better for our needs, although far more expensive. …See More

 

Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera 2 pack

At this point, I joined in the feed and reminded her that mail theft was a crime and that they should report it to the postal inspector.

 

J H Oh we all know it’s a federal crime to steal mail, and my neighbors and I have reported it multiple times, but They don’t give a rats ass. It is happening all over San Jose. They target the group boxes because they can get a bunch of mail all in one shot. We have two of this metal boxes on our street and both got broken into yesterday afternoon. I came home with the kids from school and was going to get the mail when I spotted the main door where the mail carrier puts the mail in, was wide open as was the one down the street and all the mail was …

 

So I promised her I would research the problem and post the results here on my blog in the hope that someone will encourage the authorities to step up their investigation. My research revealed that it’s not just happening all over San Jose, but all over California.  I turned up a whole conga line of mail theft stories – and one video of a pair of brazen mail thieves armed with a mail box key – up and down the length of California, from Los Angeles to Bakersfield all the way up to the Bay Area.

 

In some cases, the units are ripped right out of the ground. But more often, someone has a key.  The period of Dec. 27-28, 2016 saw a spree of simultaneous mailbox thefts all using the same method.  As you’ll read, the Postal Service claims that postal service employees have not been found to be involved.

 

But then, how did the criminals get the keys? How hard would it be for someone with access to the key while on their route to have it duplicated?  Wal-Mart features a do-it-yourself key copier.

 

Following are the news reports:

Dec. 28, 2016

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Royal Coachman Estates sits on a hill in northeast Bakersfield with about 180 single family homes in a gated community. Just off Fairfax Road, the community is home to a mix of retired people, those still working and students.

“It’s a very quiet neighborhood,” David Davis said. He has lived there seven years and is president of the Royal Coachman Estates Homeowners Association.

But the tranquility gave way to some uneasiness recently.

Thieves rolled in under the cover of darkness at around 4 a.m. Dec. 24. A security camera recorded a gold-colored car that someone drove up to a set of mailboxes, and then two men wearing baseball caps got out of the car as the driver remained inside. The two men casually walked up to the mailboxes. They didn’t appear to be in any hurry.

Davis pointed to one of the men in the video.

“This is the guy that’s got the key,” he said.

The two men did not have to physically break into the mailboxes or vandalize them. One of them simply used a key to open at least five different mailboxes to gain access to multiple bins of residents’ mail.

Davis is clearly bothered.

“This is a break-in of a magnitude that annoys me, because the post office was well aware of the fact that somebody had duplicated their key,” said Davis. “And this is exactly what we have on camera.”

One of the men appeared to have a tattoo on his neck and wore a baseball cap with a diamond design in front. He didn’t reach into the box but rather held a plastic bag open and stood next to his partner, who decided which mail to take.

“The way he’s taking it out of here I thought was interesting,” David said. “He’s very selective as to which items and which boxes he goes into.”

Also telling is the fact that the thieves did not attempt to open three other sets of mailboxes. Davis said those make a great deal of noise when opening, and he believes the thieves already knew that information.

The thieves also apparently knew the code to enter into the gated community. Could all this have been an inside job?

Davis said he tried to reach the postal inspector on Tuesday to report the incident, but no one answered the phone.

Anyone who might recognize the pair or the vehicle in the video is urged to call police at (661) 327-7111.

 

Video: Thieves Steal Bank of Mailboxes From San Jose CA Neighborhood

Postalnews.com & NBC News Bay Area Dec.27- 28, 2016

Residents of a quiet San Jose neighborhood are concerned about identity theft after dozens of mailboxes were ripped out of the ground last week.

The theft happened last Thursday night at Heritage Bay Drive and Hassler Parkway in the Evergreen Valley area, where one of three large banks of mailboxes was stolen, leaving nothing but bolts protruding from the ground.

“We suspect this time a year, they’re looking for everything from W2s to billing information,” one resident said. “Who knows what it could be?”

Postal officials said someone ripped the stack of 40 mailboxes out of the ground, a rare occurrence even for those who investigate mail theft. Inspectors say thieves get especially aggressive around the holidays.

 

The Daily Press – Jan. 21, 2017

VICTORVILLE — Oak Hills resident Tim Hill snapped photos of his damaged community mailbox on Thursday and took a trip to the U.S. Post Office in Hesperia to put a hold on his mail.

 

Hill, who thought his community mailbox in the Summit Hills area had been broken into Wednesday night, was surprised when a Post Office employee handed him three days’ worth of mail.

 

“The employee told me that this happened three days ago and handed me three days worth of mail,” Hill said.

 

“This is the second time our box has been broken into. This first happened in December. That got fixed and then here we are some weeks later and lowlifes who don’t want to work damage our box again.”

 

Hill wasn’t the only one at the Post Office who left with a handful of mail that was undeliverable.

 

Phelan resident Myra Avina brought her two young children to collect her mail because several community mailboxes off of Phelan Road had been recently damaged.

 

Avina gave mail thieves the benefit of the doubt and believes strong winds are the culprit.

 

Regardless of how the boxes were damaged, many High Desert residents are forced to drive to their local Post Office because their mail is undeliverable.

 

One local United States Postal Service employee who declined to give his name told the Daily Press this is a problem that is “plaguing” not just the High Desert, but just about every community in Southern California.

 

Mail theft has been on the rise nationwide and crooks have become more brazen in their tactics in prying open community mailbox doors to steal mail. In one instance locally, thieves stole an entire community mailbox.

Until August, whenever a community mailbox was damaged and unable to have mail delivered to it, it was the financial responsibility of residents to replace or make repairs to their boxes.

 

According to USPS spokeswoman Eva Jackson, policy regarding financial responsibility for damaged or destroyed community mailboxes changed last August. The current policy for the “Pacific Area” states that the USPS is responsible for replacing damaged or stolen community mailboxes.

 

Prior to the change, according to Jackson, the USPS followed national policy, which states, “appropriate mail receptacles must be provided for the receipt of mail. The type of mail receptacles depends on the mode of delivery in place. Purchase, installation and maintenance of mail receptacles are the responsibility of the customer.”

 

“When the Neighborhood Delivery and Collection Box Unit or Central Box Units are no longer serviceable it is the responsibility of the homeowner to contact their local post office,” Jackson said. “The local post office will contact the Delivery Operations Support Department and Field Maintenance Department, who will order and replace the NDCBU or CBU. … Although we try to replace them within a week, it would depend on how many NDCBU or CBUs replacements we have available. If there is a high spike in replacement requests we would have to order more from the manufacturer if we run out.”

 

Locally, the Postal Service employees are seeing a heavy backlog of boxes in need of repair or replacement.

 

Victorville resident Sonia Padilla said her community mailbox was broken into and damaged in October. The mailbox has not been replaced and she has been forced to pick up her mail regularly at the Victorville Post Office.

 

However, Jackson told the Daily Press on Thursday that Padilla’s community mailbox has been repaired and the Post Office can resume mail delivery to her community.

 

While repaired, Jackson said it is still the USPS’s intention to replace the community mailbox as soon as the order of “new higher security units” was received.

 

More Video: Groundbreaking

 

 

July 3, 2016

BENICIA (CBS SF) — Police arrested a 20-year-old woman Wednesday in Benicia after officers found her in possession of a stolen car, stolen mail and heroin, police said.

Officers responded to an apartment complex on Rankin Way after they received a report that afternoon that someone had broken into the complex’s mailbox, according to police.

In addition to the missing mail, officer also learned a car had been stolen from the apartment complex, police said.

After a preliminary investigation, officers were able to locate the stolen vehicle and a suspect at the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn at 1955 E. Second St., according to police.

The suspect, identified as Christina Figueroa, was found with stolen mail, heroin and drug paraphernalia, police said.

Officer arrested Figueroa on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia. She was booked into the Solano County Jail, according to police.

Feb. 27, 2017

KPIX 5 (CBS) – San Francisco

We may be sending less snail mail but more of it is going missing. Authorities are seeing a spike in mail crime.

Michelle Pounder’s Valentines weren’t so sweet this year.

“They arrived delivered completely open,” she says.

Cards from her mother arrived ripped open, the cash inside missing.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was like, why would anyone do that?” she said.

She’s not alone. We received similar complaints via social media about money missing from Valentine’s and birthday cards.

Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch says they are aware of the problem.

“This video shot by a home security camera in Los Angeles shows a crook jogging from mailbox to mailbox,” he said.

Postal Service statistics on mail theft nationally indicate some progress is being made. The service investigated 1,400 cases in fiscal year 2015, down from 1,525 the year before, according to spokesman Frank J. Schissler.

Also, more than 2,500 arrests were made in fiscal year 2015, Schissler said, up from 2,335 in 2014.

If your mail has been taken, the chances are your neighbors’ has been taken.

Pounder believes, in her case, a postal worker may be to blame became her mailbox can only be opened with a key. When she reported the crime to her local post office, the postmaster told her it probably happened in their San Francisco facility by a ring of thieves throughout the USPS.

Another victim said she was also told postal workers were the culprits.

However, Fitch said, “The vast majority of people we pursue, investigate and arrest do not work for the postal service.”

He admits most people do not get stolen money back and advises people to register and insurer any valuables sent through the mail.

“These are federal offenses,” he says.

Pounder just wishes the people doing this would just have a heart.

“It’s not right,” she says.

Considering it is tax season, be mindful of sensitive information you’re sending through the mail. Opt for secure online uploads whenever possible, and lock or secure mailboxes.

San Jose Mercury News – Nov. 15, 2016

LOS ALTOS — A man and woman who were identified by Los Altos police in a press release Tuesday as mail theft suspects have been cleared of any wrongdoing, as authorities say they were actually victims of identity theft.

Kenneth Wayne Gates Jr., 28, of East Palo Alto, and Nichelle Rene Stanfield, 26, of East Palo Alto, were not the two people arrested for mail theft as originally reported by Los Altos police.

The two people arrested and released on citations illegally had Gates’ and Stanfield’s driver’s licenses and provided those to police when stopped. The photos initially released by police were also of Gates and Stanfield, not the real suspects.

Stanfield said in the time since the press release was issued her name and photograph have been circulating on social media.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m a bad person,” Stanfield said. “That’s not me. I work for a living.

“This is pain and suffering to me. This is something that is going to remain in people’s heads.”

Sunday at 7:19 p.m., officers responded to the 400 block of Torwood Lane to investigate a “suspicious person” reported by a resident. Officers made contact with a man and woman who were in possession of mail taken from several mailboxes in the neighborhood.

Both were arrested for mail theft, and the woman was also cited for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Los Altos officers have been in contact with both victims and detectives are actively investigating two suspects for identify theft.  If anyone has any information, which might assist with this investigation, please contact the Los Altos Police Department Detective Bureau at (650) 947-2770.

 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

 

MILPITAS, Calif. (KGO) —

 

A Bay Area woman was jailed Thursday for mail theft and police say pulling off the crime was easy.

 

ABC News – A Bay Area woman was jailed Thursday for mail theft and police say pulling off the crime was easy. RELATED: Thieves use master key to steal mail in SF Leah Kaye Costa, 45, was in illegal possession of a U.S. Postal Service master key, allowing her to unlock mailboxes across the Bay Area.

Milpitas police arrested Costa after she parked illegally in a handicapped space. Police say she was high on drugs and that methamphetamine was found in her car. “A search was done of her car and located mail that did not belong to her,” said Lt. John Torrez of Milpitas police. Officials say the mail was from different addresses from the South and East Bay. “We also found a master key to one of the post office boxes in addition to handmade keys, possibly used to open up mailboxes,” Torrez told ABC7 News. Master keys can open community mailboxes found in countless neighborhoods across the Bay Area. Police believe that’s how Costa got more than a dozen pieces of mail.

“The arrest and recovery of the key will hopefully help stem some of the mail theft we’ve seen in the area,” Torrez said. Last Sept. two thieves were caught on tape breaking into a building on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco using a stolen or counterfeit master key to rifle through mailboxes. Mike Mani was the victim of mail theft and fears his identity may be at risk. “that’s what I’m afraid of, ID theft,” he said. “It’s happened to friends, a nightmare to get undone.” Police don’t know how Costa got a hold of the stolen or counterfeit master keys. The U.S. Postal Service is investigating.

 

East Bay Times – Jan. 31, 2017

FREMONT — Fremont police and federal postal inspectors said officers are investigating a recent increase in theft from mailboxes, including an episode where a mail carrier may have been followed during daylight hours.

After a busy holiday season where heavy shipment and package levels forced some workers to serve routes well into evening hours, the prospect of employees’ newly mailed W-2 forms and state and federal tax returns risks making even more vulnerable targets out of mailboxes.

Police mentioned hearing of reports on a social-media platform about the pursuit, which occurred around 9:30 a.m. Jan. 25 in the city’s Parkmont neighborhood, Fremont police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said.

“Unfortunately, mailboxes are not as safe and secure as they were 15 years ago,” Bosques said. “This was a super-unsophisticated crime of opportunity.”

Jeff Fitch, a postal inspector with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said he spoke Tuesday with an inspector in the service’s Oakland office, which covers Alameda, Contra Costa and portions of Solano counties.

“We’re seeing an increase in mail theft statewide,” said Fitch, who added that stealing mail or breaking into postal vehicles can result in penalties of up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. “We are seeing a number of techniques through complaints filed with us, and reports made by local post offices.”

Fitch said it is critical to report any suspected mail-theft episodes not just with local police or sheriff’s departments, but with the Postal Service at 877-876-2455, as well as to monitor credit reports and bank statements in weeks following theft to catch possible fraudulent activity.

We hate to be the deliverer of bad news, California, but you can add wholesale mailbox/mail theft to your list of growing problems.

 

 

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Published in: on March 2, 2017 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

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