Missing mail: Authorities call mail theft ’crime of opportunity’ | TheUnion.com

Missing mail: Authorities call mail theft ’crime of opportunity’

Linda Chaplin never would have known she was the victim of mail theft, she said.

But one day she received a package from the United States Postal Service with two wet, wrinkled and opened letters addressed to her, describing stolen mail they had “recovered outside normal business channels.”

With no idea what else could have been stolen, Chaplin said she’ll soon be adding a lock to her mailbox, like many of her neighbors have.

Residents have complained for at least the last several months about mail that arrives late, has to be re-delivered, is erroneously marked undeliverable or is marked as delivered despite never arriving.

The problems eventually led to a former delivery woman informally un-retiring to help out, and a protest-turned-meeting with post office officials.

While the mail theft issue isn’t new either, by all accounts it has gotten worse during the pandemic.

According to Andrew Trygg, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, there has been an uptick in mail theft throughout the county, particularly whenever would-be thieves are expecting checks.

“In most cases this is a crime of opportunity because residents will sometimes go for days without checking their mail,” Trygg said. “Residents can minimize their risk by checking their mailbox as close to their routine delivery time as possible.”

In the last month alone there have been six reported incidents of mail theft to the Sheriff’s Office, with two from the same area targeting groups of boxes.

The county police activity blotter also shows several times over the last few months people have reported finding piles of discarded mail along roadways, possibly from mail thieves.

Gary Pesselt said he knows he was the victim of mail theft thanks to USPS informed delivery.

When he tried to track a package that was marked as delivered, he said the postal service told him the tracking number was invalid, which raised suspicion.

Because his mail issues were occurring only when there was a replacement carrier, he thinks he’s narrowed down the culprit.

“My suspicion — obviously I can’t prove it — is that it’s the same carrier that’s taking the packages, because people aren’t breaking in,” he said. “I’ll never see that package again.”

A spokesperson for the USPS, Sacramento area did not provide comment on the uptick in mail theft, but reiterated that mail theft is a federal crime.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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