The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

January 13, 2011
On Your Guard: Thieves hit Postal Service collection box in capital

Those large, blue U.S. Postal Service collection boxes are regarded as secure places to deposit mail, but even they are sometimes targeted by thieves.

The break-in of one such box at Cadillac Drive and Howe Avenue in Sacramento was reported Jan. 3, said Jeff Fitch, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Damage to the box was repaired the following day.

People who deposited mail there during the New Year's weekend may learn their mail was stolen only when they receive a notice of an unpaid bill, or when stolen financial information leads to identity theft.

"If we recover any of that mail, we send out letters to those customers," Fitch said.

He urged people to immediately notify postal inspectors if they are contacted by their bank about suspicious account activity that might be the result of mail theft.

Mail theft is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each incident.

The Postal Service has a standing $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for mail theft, Fitch said.

You can call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's 24-hour hotline, (877) 876-2455, or file online at:

Because vandalism of collection boxes typically occurs at night, Fitch advised against depositing mail in them after the last collection of the day. Instead, deposit mail in the mail slot at a local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier.

- Cathy Locke

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Welcome to The Bee's newest blog: Public Eye. In the coming months, you will see us breaking news here as well as following up on investigations we have published with tidbits, news breaks and behind-the-scenes descriptions of our news-gathering process. Know of a wrong we could right? Send our fraud squad your tips at:

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