After repeated break-ins, the big, blue mail collection boxes outside the Sylvan and Kearney avenue post offices in Modesto were removed months ago, leaving inconvenienced customers clamoring for their return.
Recently, a “special, reinforced” box was put in at the Kearney office, Modesto Postmaster Jennifer Gowans said Friday. In just nine days, thieves had cracked the more secure box.
“These guys are vicious,” she said. Next up, the Postal Service is going to try something new – building something around the collection boxes to further protect them against break-ins.
In the meantime, she urges mail customers to note the final pickup time posted on collection boxes – at Kearney, that was 5:30 p.m. weekdays, 5 p.m. Saturdays – and not put anything in the boxes that would sit there overnight.
She said the Postal Service has no way of identifying who dropped mail in the Kearney collection box. “That’s why we really thought about not putting boxes back,” she said, but customer demand has been great, despite the risks.
“People come through here like it’s a Starbucks line,” Gowans said. She said she’s been surprised that people seem to look right past clear damage done to a box and will deposit mail even when the door is broken open.
The only silver lining to the recent break-in at the Kearney box was that the door was pried just partially open, so all the thieves could do was reach in to grab handfuls of mail, Gowans said. They didn’t clear it out as they can do when a door is broken fully open.
Workers bent the door closed again so it was usable for customers during the day, then blocked it off to prevent nighttime deposits, she said. On Friday, the box was removed until a still more secure one can be made. “We need to protect our customers,” Gowans said, who noted that thieves have gone so far as to carry away entire boxes.
Beyond the collection boxes, mail theft continues to plague neighborhoods. Just Sunday morning on the private neighborhood social network Nextdoor, a north Modesto resident reported that hers and others’ mailboxes had been broken into during the night. “It appears they went up and down Northampton (Lane, off Sylvan Avenue). Lots of boxes open this morning,” the resident posted. “The creeps didn’t just pry mine open (it was a locking box), they broke the lock out. Thankfully, I had nothing in my mailbox! Grinches!”
On Tuesday, this post was made on the Stanislaus Rural Crime Alert page on Facebook: “It’s the Christmas season and the criminals want you to be their Santa. We have had multiple reports of package theft all over the county. Some even happening within 15 minutes of drop-off. Today, one attempt was thwarted in Turlock but the thief got away. Find a postal center, business or an address that ALWAYS has someone present.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327
Protecting your mail
Here’s what you can do to protect your mail from thieves:
- 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’re 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’re 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’ll be out of town so it can hold your mail until you return.
- Report all suspected mail theft to a postal inspector.
- Consult with your local postmaster for the most up-to-date regulations on mailboxes, including the availability of locked centralized or curbside mailboxes.
- If you see a mail thief at work, or if you believe your mail was stolen, call police immediately, then call postal inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3).
- Learn more at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
Source: U.S. Postal Service