Lorene lives near Woodward Park.
In May of 2015 she got a bit of a surprise.
Discover Card called her about an attempted charge of $600 on her card at Cycle World in Modesto.
One little problem. She wasn’t trying to buy anything at Cycle World.
It turns out Discover had sent her a new card that she had never received.
That wasn’t the only surprise she had in store.
It turns out mail had been stolen from her neighborhood cluster box. In talking with her mail carrier she was informed that “someone had a master key” and was hitting cluster boxes.
She reported the crime to Manteca Police. They asked her if she wanted to press charges if someone was caught. Lorene said yes. She was told Manteca Police would forward the case to Modesto Police Department. Lorene was hopeful that the bicycle shop would have security footage that would help apprehend the person. She heard nothing.
Then three weeks ago Wells Fargo called.
It seems someone had gotten a hold of checks they sent her for balance transfers and such and had tried to draw $1,200 on the account in Sacramento.
Lorene was beside herself. Not just because she was the victim of another theft but the fine folks running the Manteca Post Office didn’t bother to warn anyone in her neighborhood that cluster mailboxes were being broken into again. That’s how she lost the mailing from Wells Fargo and didn’t get other things that should have been mailed to her such as her sample ballot.
Lorene can now count herself among growing hundreds of — strike that — thousands of Manteca postal patrons who wonder whether the Post Office is worth trusting anymore.
It’s not that they don’t like their mail carriers and don’t think they do a great job. They do. But after being left out in the dark and not provided information in a timely fashion that could help avoid them being crime victims they aren’t big fans of the Post Office any longer.
Patrons like Lorene are even more frustrated when they are told by their carriers that concerns they receive from residents are passed up the chain but nothing happens.
Lorene has also learned the folks ridiculed for having snail mail in the age of email have instantaneous delivery compared to the speed at which they fix broken cluster mailboxes. Snow, sleet, hail, rain nor the dark of night may not slow them down from their appointed rounds but when it comes to getting federal property such as mail boxes fixed it can be well into the next Glacier Age. Lorene went for months having to drive to the post office to pick up her mail.
Lorene noted that she and her neighbors are not alone. Cluster boxes across Manteca are being hit. Paseo Villas and other apartment complex’s community mailboxes have been targeted.
Why not place signs on cluster boxes that warn people to pick up their mail daily and not leave it overnight? And while Lorene appreciates finally getting a notice in the mail that there are postal thieves on the loose and to take caution, the timing was the equivalent of placing the dodo bird on the endangered species list for protection a decade or so after it because manner extinct.
Manteca mail theft victims often say they don’t fault the Postal Service for the theft but they do for failure to warn others in a timely manner once thefts start and for not taking steps to make boxes more secure or even repairing them in a reasonable time.
The reason I get may mail at a box at the Postal Annex on Industrial Park Drive has everything to do with the cavalier of a succession of Manteca postmasters.
A decade ago a postmaster took issue with the Bulletin for giving the Postal Service what she called a “black eye” for printing stories about mail being stolen from cluster boxes and residents frustrated about the apparent indifference of postal brass to the problem and failure to reduce repeat thefts.
The same week she gave me a verbal dress down, I got home from work at 1 a.m. on a Saturday and walked past the blue drop box that was just outside my apartment in the Laurel Glenn complex on Button Avenue. The next morning when I got up to go for a run, it was gone.
I called the Post Office. By chance the postmaster was there and was the one who took the call. She told me in no uncertain terms that it was impossible for someone to have stolen a big blue drop box and if it was really gone — inferring I was making it up — it was probably for maintenance. I remember saying something about how I doubt they’d pick it up for maintenance between 2 and 9 a.m. The conversation ended when she made it clear there was nothing she could do but if I still had a problem to call the Sacramento office.
That Tuesday, the Bulletin’s police reporter turned in a story that told how sheriff deputies found two discarded blue curbside postal drop boxes that had been unbolted from locations in Manteca emptied and left in an orchard south of town.
What Manteca needs are postmasters that take a keen interest in educating and protecting the public they serve against mail theft and not ones that seem more concerned about their image.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.