If you don’t want your mail to get stolen, don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.
That’s the message that the Manteca Post Office wants residents to know to prevent mail theft from occurring across the city.
But it’s not just a few mailboxes that are getting sporadically broken into around tax time or Christmas time because criminals know they’re most likely to find the loot they’re looking for.
As far as anybody can tell, somebody actually has a master key that opens every single mailbox cluster in the city and they’ve been keen to use it to swipe not only the letters in the box, but the packages as well.
Earlier this week my mom got a notice on her phone that a package of baby clothes had arrived – she’s already stockpiling clothes for my son – so she drove down to the edge of the neighborhood only to find an empty box.
Now, to be fair, it was delivered the night before and she just didn’t see the email.
But it was the second time in a week that a package had been delivered – she ordered Matchbox cars for my stepson’s birthday – and stolen within the 18 hours it took to go down and get it.
Naturally, she’s upset.
While this particular example happens to be of my mother, when I was helping my Dad last week with a dump run we saw the mailman on our way out of his neighborhood and he figured he’d do the right thing and pull in and let him know that when he was leaving for work the other day, the front (they’re now front-loaded) was wide open. He just figured maybe the mailman forgot to lock it.
“What day was this?” asked a lady that was standing there talking to the mailman.
“That’s about when my package was supposedly delivered and it wasn’t there.”
I spoke with Manteca Postmaster Beverly Leymaster on Thursday. She said all of the keys that open mailboxes in Manteca have been accounted for, meaning that somebody has actually duplicated a key based on the locking mechanism of the box.
Whether they actually ripped it off and took it with them to do so, I’m not completely sure.
But there is somebody around here right now that has access to your mail, and they’re apparently striking at random – almost always at night – and grabbing everything that they can in the process.
According to Leymaster, both the Manteca Police Department and Postal Inspectors are currently on the case.She believes that arrests have already been made of some of the people that are believed to be responsible.
There is, however, a bigger question here.
Why weren’t people informed when the Postal Service learned that this was taking place?
It’s pretty much common sense not to leave your mail in your mailbox, but that doesn’t mean that public notification wouldn’t have prevented at least some of the thefts that have taken place.
A notice taped to the front of each of the clusters, perhaps.
Here’s a novel concept – maybe put a slip into every single mailbox in Manteca letting people know what is happening and what they can do to prevent it.
Leymaster says that exact tactic is used when a mailbox is vandalized, but so far my mother hasn’t heard anything from the Postal Service about her packages or the fact that they were stolen. This means that whoever comes on the route between one day to the next obviously couldn’t tell that the box had been accessed, which means whoever got into it must have used a key.
That’s disconcerting to say the very least.
So what is being done about it?
Well, nothing at the current moment.
The reason, Ledymaster said, that locks haven’t been rekeyed on the mailboxes is because somebody could just break that door off and do exactly what they’ve done with the current mechanism.
Options are being looked into, she said, but I find it hard to believe that with modern technology – or even really good old technology – we can’t come up with some sort of a locking mechanism that can’t be duplicated. Sure, it might be expensive – and there are a lot of mailbox clusters in Manteca.
But what’s going to happen to their revenue when people decide that they’d rather go UPS than ship packages through them because they want to make sure that they’re actually able to get them.
Right now the thieves have the upper hand.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t stay that way forever.
My son is going to need his clothes.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.