By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
When Antoinette Griffin and her family went out of town over the Christmas holiday, some of their family and friends mailed packages to their River Place address while they were gone. When the family returned home, the packages were gone.
“We thought it was something with the post office, that they didn’t deliver them,” Griffin said. “But when we called them, they said they didn’t have them.”
The same thing happened in April when the family went out of town for a few days and then again over Memorial weekend. When the family returned, they had catalogs in their mailbox but no regular mail. Upon further inspection, they realized that the catalogs weren’t even for them… they were for neighbors down the street.
“We were like, ‘Ok this is really strange,’” she said.
Griffin started asking her neighbors if any of them had experienced anything similar. She discovered that one of her neighbors had the same thing happen when he went out of town for a week. He had put a hold on his mail through the post office while he was gone, but the first day the mail was delivered, it was all taken.
“He got back and he had no mail, a week’s worth of mail,” Griffin said. “That’s how we knew it was being stolen.”
She contacted Austin Police Department but was told she needed to contact the post office.
“The United States Postal Inspection Service has jurisdiction over thefts of mail,” said an APD spokesperson. The USPS Inspection Service is the federal law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service.
She then contacted her local post office, the Chimney Corners office on Far West Boulevard. She filled out an online form and was soon contacted by a supervisor.
“I was told, ‘Yes, we know that there is mail being stolen. All we can tell you is to check your mail during the day and if you’re going to be out of town, to have it held,” Griffin said. “But they said, ‘Keep calling, we need more people to call.’ I don’t know if they’re working up a case or what.”
The supervisor told her to get a locked mailbox, but Griffin said she can’t because of the way the mailbox is built.
“We really can’t do that without having to rebuild our whole mailbox,” said Griffin. “They don’t sell just the lid part. The box is cemented in concrete so there’s no way we’re able to lock it. We’re kind of a prime target because there’s not much traffic other than cars who live on this street.”
Austin news station KXAN reported in April that Rollingwood police had apprehended three suspects who they believe stole mail from at least 340 residents in upscale communities in Rollingwood, Bee Cave, West Lake Hills, Lakeway, Steiner Ranch, Onion Creek and beyond. Police said they believed the suspects were part of a larger mail theft ring and found checks, credit cards and bank statements in the suspects’ car.
Here are some tips provided by the U.S. Postal Service to help protect mail from thieves:
• Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders.
• Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you’re expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items. If you won’t be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
• Have your local post office hold your mail while you’re on vacation, or absent from your home for a long period of time.
• 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.
• Always deposit your mail in a mail slot at your local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier.
• 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). If you observe a mail thief at work, call the local police immediately, and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455.
If you believe your mail was stolen, report it immediately to your local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector. You’ll be asked to file a formal complaint using PS Form 2016, Mail Theft and Vandalism Complaint. By analyzing information collected from the form, Postal Inspectors may determine whether your problem is isolated or part of a larger mail theft problem in your neighborhood — and it may help Postal Inspectors locate and apprehend the thieves.