Postal collection boxes targeted by thieves

September 24, 2010 5:00:59 PM PDT
There's a big problem at some postal collection boxes on the northwest side. Investigators say someone is prying them open to steal mail deposited by customers. The thieves are said to be looking for mail with gift cards and money orders inside. At least 10 post office branches on the northwest side have been hit, including the one near FM 1960 and Highway 249.

The affected boxes have been replaced, and soon, they probably will be further upgraded.

When you roll up to quickly dump mail and see mailboxes wrapped up, you've got to wonder what's going on.

"I just thought that they decided they wanted everyone to come in and drop their mail off," post office customer Faye Gould said.

In fact, collection boxes all over northwest Harris County have been hit by thieves. They either reach in and grab a handful of mail or pry open the boxes and take what they can. What they're after is checks, money orders and gift cards.

"I just think that's horrible that someone would want to do that," Gould said.

The theft is so serious that the US Attorney's Office is investigating. According to a criminal complaint, the boxes are being "pried open during Sunday nights or Monday mornings. The suspects are stealing checks and money orders, altering the personal information, and using valid routing and account numbers."

"The information that you'll put into an envelope and send off, you figure that's confidential, but obviously not now," post office customer Butch White said.

Thieves ended up taking the entire mailbox that was sitting at the FM 1960 location. now federal postal inspectors are in the process of entirely redesigning these boxes.

Business owner Wanda Mashue can't drive by to drop mail anymore. She has to go inside her post office.

"It's really convenient just to drive through here and mail it and not get out of your car, especially if it's raining," she said.

And at a mail box near Jones and Grant roads, federal postal inspectors took away their box after someone broke into it. Now nearby residents are circulating a petition to get it back.

"I'm sure it's a little inconvenient, especially for a lot of the elderly that have to come to that mailbox, then they have to get out. A lot of them might be in wheelchair or a walker," Mashue said.

Authorities have arrested one man in connection with the string of thefts, but no charges have been filed against him at this time.


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