Don’t raise that red flag!

Local law enforcement agencies warn residents about mail theft

Actually, don’t use your curbside box at all for outgoing U.S. mail, says just about everyone involved in law enforcement. And that red flag? It’s a signal to the mail thieves that there may be something of interest just inside.

Thieves on foot went through many residential curbside boxes in New Brighton in late November, making off with a lot of incoming and outgoing mail: 102 pieces were recovered following a search warrant executed Nov. 26 at the end of the trail in the 2300 block of 14th Street N.W. Authorities were first alerted when a resident noticed footprints in the snow, according to Bob Jacobson, director of New Brighton Public Safety. A local adult female was later taken into custody and booked at the jail on a pending possession of stolen mail charge but released for now as the investigation goes forward and more evidence is gathered.

Jack Serier, Undersheriff of the Public Safety Services Division of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department agrees with Jacobson: “Anytime you see someone on foot or in a vehicle loitering near neighborhood mailboxes, please call 911 so we can investigate.” The sheriff’s department is the policing agency for several contract cities, including Arden Hills, North Oaks, Shoreview and Vadnais Heights in the Bulletin area and Little Canada in the coverage area of the Roseville Review.

Chief John Ohl of the St. Anthony Police Department points out the steps people can take to “drastically reduce their chances of becoming a victim”: Put packages in the trunk when “shopping from store to store,” and use effective lighting along with a radio when you’re not home, Ohl advises. He also reminds St. Anthony residents that there is a city “House Check Program” where officers find it helpful to know who’s out of town.

‘Fast and furious’

Asked if he thought it was a little early in the pre-holiday and upcoming tax-related mail theft seasons, Lt. Lorne Rosand of the Roseville Police Department said, “While the uptick is seasonal, these people have no timetable. They’re only interested in putting cash in their pockets.” One way to avoid package thefts from vehicles, Rosand says, is to use “package pickup,” a service offered at some malls. “The mail theft increase will really start fast and furious next month when employers send out W2s and 1099s,” Rosand adds.

“So far, few, to very little package theft in Mounds View,” Police Chief Tom Kinney says, but package thefts seem to be on the rise in other areas.  There are ways, however, residents can slow it down. If you’re expecting a delivery, use the shipper’s tracking information to get on top of a late package right away. Have the package sent to your work, to a neighbor, or even delivered to a back or side door.

Requiring a signature can also be a theft deterrent. Best of all, pick it up at the shipper’s address or at least ask your shipper for that tracking number; it enables you to get on top of a missing package right way if you know the planned delivery date.

Unlike Mounds View, package thefts are on the rise in Roseville. Commonly, thieves follow the delivery trucks and grab the package just after it is left.

Any deterrents residents can put in place will help alleviate these types of crimes, such as a locking mailbox, where the postal carrier can insert your mail into a slot, but you, or anyone else, needs a key to retrieve it.

This time of year, home break-ins also increase as thieves look for Christmas gifts for themselves. The intruders prefer unoccupied addresses, but occasionally get tripped up. A woman in Roseville recently walked into her dining room to be greeted by a stranger. “Who are you?” she yelled. The man claimed he was looking for a friend and hurried out the door. The homeowner called police and the man was arrested nearby.

Is someone washing your checks?

Inexpensively obtained chemicals can be used to “wash” the dollar amount and “pay to” information off of your stolen checks then thieves can enter their own information, Rosand says.

Tasks residents can do to help “self-police” their own situation include carefully comparing their check register against their bank statement, looking for any amounts that don’t match, Jacobson explains.

Discrepancies most likely indicate an altered check. Jacobson adds that victims or other residents can also obtain a free credit report at www.annual creditreport.com. The report could uncover untoward activity on your accounts.

Chief Kinney also stressed the value of checking your mailbox frequently. “Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends,” he says. It’s one of the bad guys’ favorite times to look. Kinney also recommends the shredding of unwanted financial information.

Back to the scene of the crime

A thief in Roseville who had gotten away with victim account numbers was caught recently when he came back to the same mailboxes hoping to get password and ID information that would match the credit cards he had already stolen.

Other questions or concerns on the New Brighton theft can be addressed to city@newbrightonmn.gov. City officials continue to work with the US Postal Inspection Service as the case moves forward.

And finally, remember the red and the blue. Use the secure, blue USPS mailboxes found near business and shopping centers to deposit outgoing mail and small packages, and never raise that red flag!

Denny Lynard can be reached at dlynard@lillienews


For New Brighton mail theft victims

A list of addresses where the mail was stolen has been published by New Brighton Police. Residents unsure of whether they have lost any mail are encouraged to check the published list at pipr.es/126ITSg.

If your address is listed, you are a victim, and are asked to fill out the form accompanying the list so police will be able to contact you for more information if they need it.

“If you don’t see your address listed, we do not have any of your mail,” New Brighton authorities say.

 

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