The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office is seeing an increase in mail theft right now, especially in rural areas like Nipomo.
Residents living near the Nipomo Regional Park say they've had multiple mailbox break-ins in their neighborhood and are concerned about the possibility of it happening again.
"We lived in the community here, in Grover Beach, and have never seen anything like this and to have this happen and two boxes broken into like this, close by, literally around the corner here... that's concerning," said Nipomo resident Ron O'Reilly.
Last week, O'Reilly noticed a neighborhood mailbox had been broken into, exposing the community's mail.
"A part of the boxes were opened up, literally exposing... at least half of the boxes were open so any mail that was inside was now vulnerable to anybody who wanted to pick it up," he said.
"We always like to recommend to citizens to take action to protect their mailboxes," said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Specialist Grace Norris. "This can be done by purchasing a P.O. box rather than having a standing mailbox, or if you do have a mailbox, investing in a locking, durable type of mailbox."
As in the case in Nipomo, locks have not always protected mailboxes in the past, but Norris says they are often a good deterrent for thieves.
"Unfortunately, we have had thefts from locking mailboxes as well. We do find that, typically with mail theft, it's a crime of opportunity and so people that are looking to steal mail are looking for the easiest target," Norris said.
O'Reilly says the most concerning part of the break-ins is the possibility of private information being compromised.
"They're all very concerned. I mean, you never know when you're going to lose something that you're really fearful that would compromise your own bank account or whatever," he said.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is reportedly investigating the mail theft in the Nipomo area.
The agency shared the following tips to protect yourself against mail theft:
- Don’t let incoming or outgoing mail sit in your mailbox. You can significantly reduce the chance of being victimized by removing your mail from your mailbox every day.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.
- Don’t leave your mail unattended for extended periods. Have your Post Office hold your mail while you’re away. You can go online at www.usps.com.
- When expecting a package delivery, track the shipment at www.usps.com. You can sign up for e-mail and text alerts at www.myusps.com.
- If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency.
- If you change your address, immediately notify your Post Office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
- Hand outgoing mail to your letter carrier, or mail it at the Post Office, an official blue USPS collection box on the street, or a secure receptacle at your place of business.
- If you have any concerns about the security in your neighborhood, consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining a PO Box service from your local Post Office.
- Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes and residences.
- If you believe your mail has been stolen, report it immediately by completing an online report at www.uspis.gov or by calling (877) 876-2455. If you see a mail thief at work, call police immediately, then report it to Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (say “Theft”).