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Mailbox thefts continue, two suspects slip away from police
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A pried open cluster mail box in the 600 block of Grafton Street reveals 13 empty shelves devoid of residents mail. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Manteca Police chased two thieves caught in the act of prying open a cluster mailbox in a neighborhood north of Woodward Park more than 20 miles before they fled on foot after crashing the stolen vehicle they were driving southwest of Modesto.
The Grafton Street cluster mailbox was one of six thieves hit after midnight during the weekend underscoring repeated warnings from Manteca Police that residents need to retrieve their mail every day and not let it sit overnight in cluster mailboxes. In the past two weeks upwards of 18 cluster mailboxes have been broken into throughout the city although the vast majority have been south of the 120 Bypass.
The thieves were caught on a surveillance camera in the 600 block of Grafton Street at 3:35 a.m. Friday. The prying open of the mailbox by two men who took the contents before driving away was witnessed by a neighbor as well. Her husband followed the suspects in his vehicle.
He contacted Manteca Police dispatch and reported the location of the two thieves in the car he was trailing.  Officer Eddie Cardenas located the trio, including the neighbor who had constant contact with the dispatcher, and initiated a pursuit that led him and other officers south toward Modesto. They were joined by CHP units and deputies from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office.
Manteca Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Aguilar said the chase went down into the county area on South Manteca Road and eventually to eastbound Highway 132 in a rural area southwest of Modesto before the duo crashed into Riverdale Park. The two suspects fled from officers on foot.
Aguilar said their 2016 red Jeep Cherokee getaway car had been reported stolen out of Colorado.  Police set up a perimeter of officers in the predawn hours but were unable to locate the two suspects in the surrounding area of the park.
He noted that much of the mail had been found in the vehicle. Detective Aaron Montoya and Community Service Officer Barbara Morgan spent hours going through the evidence and returning some of the mail to its owners.
Montoya has been the lead detective in other mail box thefts and has one couple now in county jail awaiting trial on earlier charges of mail theft.  When searching their apartment last year on North Union Road, the detective told of finding stolen mail and credit cards laid out on the floor of their apartment unit.
 Manteca Police have stressed the need for people to be extra vigilant with their mail. In the past two years alone, just three cases of identity theft handled by the Manteca Police Department involve more than 1,000 victims. That was before the latest surge in mailbox thefts that started about two weeks ago.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email