Postmaster Holly Baker said two Mountain Area mailbox clusters were broken into last week, and with the upcoming holiday season, it’s paramount that residents check their mail every day to try and slow down the potential rise of postal theft.
Baker, with the U.S. Postal Service office in Oakhurst, said the incidents happened with a cluster at 41300 Highway 49 near Ahwahnee, and at 38950 Highway 41 in Coarsegold.
For the Highway 49 cluster, the entire back panel was ripped open and many mailed items, including at least one parcel, were stolen, Baker said.
One victim of that theft, who wished to remain anonymous, said the thieves have been making fraudulent purchases in their name.
“The thieves got our bank statements and used our banking numbers to create fraudulent checks that they have been cashing at Home Depot, Target, and Trader Joe’s,” the victim said. They said two purchases were made for around $60 each at Home Depot and Target, then an additional $85 at Target and $120 at Trader Joe’s.
Baker confirmed she had spoken with the victims and called the theft “absolutely awful.”
“I haven’t had to deal with a mailbox break in since July,” Baker said. “It’s not like it happens every month and then we get two right in a row. It’s really awful.”
Baker said work was underway to repair both the mailboxes and replace them with newer models that can be more difficult to break into. She said the Oakhurst office is working to get replacements throughout the entire Mountain Area, where she estimated there are a total of some 550 boxes. She said the peak of mail theft happens after Thanksgiving and into Christmas, when thieves look to steal packages.
To help prevent mail theft and any potential theft, Baker offered some tips.
Primarily, she said, people need to check their mail every day.
“Plus cameras are very inexpensive now, so if they can mount one at their home or near the mail unit in a tree or on a post, that would really help solve this awful crime,” Baker said. “Plus, people need to be aware about anything that looks suspicious. If you see someone following a mail truck or a UPS truck, report it immediately to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. Even in broad daylight, thieves will steal packages or break into mailboxes, so make sure to be aware of anything suspicious in the area.”
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at (559) 658-2555 for the Oakhurst substation, or at (559) 675-7770 for the Madera headquarters.