West Carson mail theft exposes recurring problem

In the hilly areas of northwest Carson City, free-standing mailboxes out of sight are susceptible to theft and vandalism, according to the Carson City Sheriff’s Office.

In the hilly areas of northwest Carson City, free-standing mailboxes out of sight are susceptible to theft and vandalism, according to the Carson City Sheriff’s Office.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.

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On Aug. 14, residents who live near the Jack C. Davis Observatory in the hills of west Carson City discovered their mailboxes had been ransacked. A cluster of free-standing boxes serve several homes in the area, and boxes with locked compartments were jimmied open.

This wasn’t the first time the residents, many retirees, were targeted. The boxes have been hit three times this year — in March and June as well — and the thefts have shone light on the type of crime itself and just who has jurisdiction in cases of mail theft.

“Theft of mail isn’t the most common occurrence here in Carson City, but it does happen,” said Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong. “When we have cases where the mail is involved, it is most often a result of roadside mailboxes that are easily accessed with little or no threat of someone seeing.”

Furlong said the area of Lakeview is commonly hit by mail thieves. Rolling hills and winding driveways can make mailboxes along the road seem hidden from view. Regarding the Aug. 14 incident, which occurred south of the Lakeview neighborhood, CCSO canvassed the area, followed tips but eventually hit a dead end and referred the case to the federal level. Furlong said a recent change in state law makes it easier for local authorities to work side by side with federal law enforcement on mail crimes.

“Assembly Bill 272 now creates teeth for local jurisdictions to go after thefts of the mail,” he said.

The bill was passed unanimously in the 82nd session of the Nevada Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Joe Lombardo on June 5. Effective July 1, the law calls out mail theft specifically as a category D felony and makes it punishable by 1 to 4 years in state prison, a fine of up to $5,000 plus restitution.

Furlong said making mail theft a state crime — not just a federal offense – allows local authorities to pursue and prosecute cases. He said the Aug. 14 case was the first time CCSO worked on a mail theft incident since the law took effect. CCSO can use its resources to provide initial investigation and refer cases to federal authorities when needed, he said.

Trevor Hudson, a U.S. postal inspector based in Las Vegas, also believes the new law will help.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement arm of USPS that investigates mail fraud and theft, violent crimes against postal employees and dangerous or illegal mail.

“We work to ensure America’s confidence in the U.S. mail by enforcing more than 200 federal laws in investigations of crimes that may adversely affect postal customers or fraudulently use the U.S. mail or the postal system,” Hudson said.

Hudson maintains the U.S. mail system “remains one of the most secure means of transmitting personal information.”

“But with deliveries to more than 150 million addresses, we can’t do the job alone,” Hudson said.

Those robbed Aug. 14 wished to remain unidentified, for fear of being targeted further, but told the Appeal important items were stolen, including a new credit card, credit card statements and contents from a package. In the wake of the crime, neighbors banded together and reached out to the post office in Carson City about what could be done.

Both local postal authorities and the sheriff’s office believe locked cluster boxes could increase security in the area.

“It would be a good solution for sure. The new cluster boxes are very hard to get into,” said Russ Warr, acting officer in charge for the postal service in Carson City.

Some residents do have concerns about cluster boxes but are in discussion with the post office to figure out how to make the area less vulnerable to mail thieves. In the meantime, Furlong said residents should call 911 if they see someone raiding a mailbox. If they discover stolen or damaged mail, they can call CCSO’s nonemergency line: 775-887-COPS (2677).

Tips for preventing mail theft from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service:

• Don’t let incoming or outgoing mail sit in your mailbox. You can significantly reduce the chance of being victimized by simply removing your mail from your mailbox every day.

• Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you’re expecting checks, credit cards or similar items. If you won’t be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail.

• Just as you wouldn’t leave the door to your home unlocked while you’re away, you shouldn’t let mail accumulate in your mailbox. Don't leave your mail unattended for extended periods. Have your post office hold your mail while you’re away. You can do this online at www.usps.com.

• When expecting a package delivery, track the shipment at www.usps.com. You can sign up for email 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.

• Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that are more difficult to alter.

• If you have concerns about security in your neighborhood, consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining 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.



Carson City Sheriff’s Office

Emergency: 911

Nonemergency: 775-887-COPS (2677)

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

877-876-2455 (say “Theft”).



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