13 Investigates finds just 91 postal inspectors in Texas despite thousands of mail theft complaints

Saturday, February 3, 2024
13 Investigates finds just 91 postal inspectors in Texas
Despite 5,000 complaints in Harris County, 13 Investigates found 38 inspectors assigned to investigate mail theft in Houston, Los Angeles and Chicago.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For months, Dale Langham has been concerned about thieves breaking into his business's mailbox and stealing thousands of dollars in checks.

He has several surveillance videos that clearly show individuals driving up and breaking into the cluster mailbox for his business, including some thieves who have a key that unlocks all the boxes.

"It's a shame because you know this guy isn't just hitting this box, he's hitting all the boxes," said Langham, President of Hobré USA.

Despite roughly 5,000 complaints of mail theft last year in Harris County alone, our investigation found there were just 44 arrests for mail theft, according to data 13 Investigates obtained from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is in charge of investigating mail-related crimes.

Through an open records request, 13 Investigates found there are 91 postal inspection law enforcement officers in Texas.

When we first interviewed Langham late last year, he told us he filed a complaint about his stolen mail with the post office, but he never heard back.

"Five months, it seems like they could at least contact us, say we're investigating your case or something," he said.

He's not the only one who told us he hasn't heard back after complaining about stolen mail.

U.S. Congressman Randy Weber, who represents House District 14 in Texas, said his team wrote a check for about $700 from his campaign account to pay for expenses that ended up getting stolen.

Weber said someone from the bank called to let his office know someone altered the amount on the check and cashed it for $14,000.

Weber said the bank reimbursed his campaign account with the stolen funds. But, the post office never responded to his concerns despite filing a complaint.

"We are still waiting to hear back," Weber said.

RELATED: 13 Investigates uncovers hundreds of postal employees found culpable of stealing mail

After constantly hearing from constituents about their issues with the post office, Weber said he filed a bill last May that would require USPS to file a report every year so Congress could have better oversight of their operations.

"Somebody needs to hold them accountable when this kind of stuff's going on," he said.

When we interviewed we interviewed U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson Silvia Torres in October, we asked her how many of her colleagues are dedicated to investigating mail theft in the Houston area, but she wouldn't say.

Through an open records request, 13 Investigates found nationwide, there are around 1,200 postal inspectors nationwide. There are 91 in Texas.

"You've got 91 in Texas, that's ludicrous," Weber said. "Obviously they're way behind the curb and that needs to be fixed."

Not all of those 91 officers investigate mail full time. In fiscal year 2022, just 37 percent of postal inspectors worked mail theft cases, according to a USPS Office of the Inspector General audit from last year.

The audit shows in July 2023, there were 38 postal inspection officers solely tasked with investigating mail theft in the Houston, Los Angeles and Chicago field offices.

"As postal inspectors, mail theft is one of our highest priorities and we try to reach every single customer who does file a complaint. It may take us a little longer, but we will get to you," Torres told us last year.

Now, USPS tells us not every victim will be contacted.

"Most often, in instances of mail theft, many victims can often be linked to a common incident or occurrence. In these cases, postal inspectors may not necessarily reach out to every victim of mail theft unless more information is needed. This may make a customer feel like nothing is being done. But that could not be further from the truth," Torres said in a statement to 13 Investigates. "Financial investigations take time and much of that work is done behind the scenes."

She said customers should report information to the USPS Inspection Service's hotline at 877-876-2455 rather than reporting it to their local police or post office.

In addition to the 44 mail theft arrests in Harris County last year, there were four mail theft arrests in Fort Bend County last year and just one each in Galveston and Montgomery counties, according to the data we obtained from USPS.

At Hobré, Langham said he's been waiting six months to hear back from a postal inspector about his case.

He said the mail thefts for his business's cluster mailbox used to happen daily, but now isn't as frequent since he put up surveillance cameras. He's worried the lack of investigation by USPS means the thieves will never be caught.

"No matter how many times they hit this, no one's ever going to do anything about it," Langham said. "It's a shame because you know, this guy isn't just hitting this box, he's hitting all the boxes."

Weber said so many people and businesses rely on the post office so USPS needs to be more customer-oriented.

"Small business is the backbone of America," he said. "And when small business has a problem, we ought to set up and take notice and something needs to be done about it and we're working on that."

For updates on this story, follow Kevin Ozebek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Contact 13 Investigates

Have a tip? A problem to solve? Send a tip below. If you don't have a photo or document to include, just hit 'skip upload' and send the details. (On mobile? You can open our form by tapping here.)