BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Mail theft around Bakersfield has homeowners nervous about their safety and identity.
When LeeAnn Christensen checked her mail last week, she found nothing to check. Her mail, along with the mail belonging to her Silver Creek neighbors, had been stolen from vandalized mailboxes.
"Four days ago, I came over to check my mailbox, and I noticed that my mailbox, the lip of it, was bent open and at least 30 of these mailboxes were wide open," said Christensen.
The missing mail had her worrying about the bigger threat.
"You can tell a lot about a person by their mail," said Christensen. "They can tell a single mother, if she's getting child-support checks. What if they, you know, decide mail isn't good enough, and they want to come to your house? They want to find out where you live. A single mom, that'd be an easy target."
Identity theft is a year-round concern, but crime can also spike around the holidays, because presents, gift cards and money are often sent through the mail. Neighbors in the area of Harris and Ashe said it's been stressful.
"If I see the mailman here, because I live right across the street, I'll go next door and say 'Hey, the mailman's here, let's get our mail now,' because by tonight it may be gone," said Al Condello, who is another victim of mail theft in the Silver Creek neighborhood.
Residents have reported the problem, but that is where the confusion sets in. They said Bakersfield police told them to talk to the U.S. Postal Service, and, then, the Postal Service told them to talk to the police.
"We have no support," said Damaris Gonzalez, another Silver Creek resident. "The police doesn't want to do anything. The postmaster is hard to get a hold of."
Eyewitness News found that to be true. The postmaster did not respond to a request for comment by Eyewitness News' Monday evening deadline to go to air with this story. As for police, a spokesperson said officers only respond if the theft is still in progress, or if someone is following the suspect and has the suspect in their sights. Otherwise, the investigation is referred to the Postal Service, because mailboxes are under the postmaster's jurisdiction.
Residents of Silver Creek said the postmaster did have someone come out to fix the mailboxes, but that the USPS worker only repainted the mailboxes and bent the doors back into shape and did not replace the locks or move the mailboxes the way the residents wanted.
The residents said they will be taking matters into their own hands and plan to form a neighborhood watch to prevent further theft. They said that part of their plan is to install surveillance cameras and to form a closer community.
Here are some tips from the police for you to avoid mail theft:
- Get your mail as soon as it is dropped off.
- Never leave your mail overnight.
- If you feel that your mailbox is too unsecured, look into getting a P.O. box.
Mailbox destruction and mail theft can carry a heavy punishment. A man in Fresno pleaded guilty on Monday to destroying mailboxes. He faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.