Package thefts on the rise during holiday season
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As more people shop online during the holiday season, the United States Postal Inspection Service is warning residents to be on guard for package thefts.
Thieves are on the prowl, looking for packages left on doorsteps, hoping to get to them before homeowners do.
The Allstate Insurance Company reported that almost 70 percent of people admitted to scheduling deliveries while they were not at home.
According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, postal inspectors across the country work hard to protect mail.
With deliveries to more than 100 million addresses, however, they can't do the job alone.
"You can get online and look up your tracking information. You can enter in when you'd like it delivered. There's even an app that will tell you when it's delivered within five minutes so you can have your neighbor or spouse pick it up," said US postal inspector David Birch.
The Tucson area office has six postal inspectors working round the clock.
Birch said they have a heavy caseload, and a 98 percent conviction rate of suspects they have caught.
Last year the Tucson area office, which covers the region between Gila Bend and Douglas, arrested 56 people for mail theft and fraud related crimes.
Birch said they had reports of mail theft in several parts of Tucson.
From an apartment complex near the River and Campbell area, to homes near Speedway and Wilmot, the complaints have come in from all over the county.
Rita Ranch resident Kharmyn Cousins said she has put up a sign instructing delivery people not to leave packages at her front door, after having three packages stolen.
"It makes me feel uncomfortable to order online anymore. Now I order and have them sent to my work or my husband's work," Cousins said.
Priscilla Teran, who lives in the Peter Howell neighborhood in midtown said she has seen all the mailboxes on her street open several times, indicating someone might have gone through them. Teran said it made her uneasy.
Claude Baily, the neighborhood association president for the Peter Howell district said neighbors watch out for each other, and would be happy to pick up each other's packages if asked.
The US postal inspector's office wants to remind everyone that stealing mail is a federal crime, punishable by up to 5 years in the federal penitentiary for each count, and a $250,000 fine.
They're offering a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who can lead to the arrest or conviction of a mail thief.
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 they can hold your mail until you return.
- Report all suspected mail theft to a 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.
- 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).
You can learn more about protecting yourself from mail theft at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/
Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.