Crime

Mail thieves put sticky substances in post office collection boxes in Fresno County

See all the mail that was stolen from Fresno mailboxes

With the help of home video surveillance, the Fresno Police Department arrested a suspect after a rash of mailbox thefts had occurred throughout Fresno in March, 2019. About 1,500 pieces of stolen mail were recovered.
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With the help of home video surveillance, the Fresno Police Department arrested a suspect after a rash of mailbox thefts had occurred throughout Fresno in March, 2019. About 1,500 pieces of stolen mail were recovered.

Thieves are using sticky substances to steal mail in Fresno County.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service confirmed a post office in Clovis has been affected following a report from a resident, and said similar things have happened at other Fresno County post offices. Other locations weren’t disclosed Friday.

Resident Linda Corbin said over the past month she’s noticed a sticky substance coating the inside of blue mail collection boxes that cars can drive up to outside the Clovis post office on Minnewawa Avenue near Bullard Avenue. She said she’s noticed a sticky substance inside the boxes there at least half a dozen times.

On Friday morning, she tried to pull one stuck letter free. The attempt left her hands coated with a substance she described like a gel glue. Her hands remained sticky after washing them 10 times.

“It was terrible today, and my hand was sticking to the steering wheel,” she said. “Luckily there was no cars behind me so I just sat there for a while trying to clean my hands off.”

Corbin was told the Clovis post office has been cleaning the mail collection boxes daily because of this issue.

She said she’s been mailing her letters at the post office to avoid mailbox theft “and we find out it’s not any safer.”

“There’s got to be something to be done to protect the citizens,” Corbin said. “If my legs were good I would go inside the post office but it’s hard for me to walk.”

Report mail theft, suspicious activity

Postal inspector Jeff Fitch, a spokesman for the U.S Postal Inspection Service, said there are a team of postal inspectors stationed in Fresno who are investigating the Clovis incident and others.

Fitch encouraged people to report mail theft or suspicious activity at post offices to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by calling 877-876-2455 and filing a report at uspis.gov along with local law enforcement – although Fitch said his agency does communicate these thefts with other agencies. He said the Clovis Police Department and his agency have been in contact.

If someone’s identity is stolen via stolen mail, Fitch said that individual should also report the locations of any fraudulent purchases discovered, which helps detectives track down suspects.

The service has a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who steals mail. A person who commits mail theft can spend up to five years in prison and have to pay up to $250,000 in fines.

Fitch said there are numerous mail theft schemes and that mail theft has been increasing in California over the past few years. Using sticky substances to steal mail is not new, he said.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.

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