Mail theft trend prompts US Postal Service to change mailbox locks

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No, it’s not Grand Theft Auto – it’s stolen mail causing big headaches for businesses.

Local postal officials, citing a nationwide problem with mass mail thefts from neighborhood mailbox units, are slowly but surely changing the locks on all multiple mailbox units in the Santa Clarita Valley.

For at least the third time in five months, thieves have ransacked the multiple mailbox units – officially called neighborhood delivery box units (NDBU), each consisting of 18 individual locked mailbox compartments – in business sections of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Victims report tens of thousands of dollars in checks stolen from Santa Clarita Valley businesses, which have been cashed by thieves.

“The thieves are using counterfeit keys and for that reason the Santa Clarita Post Office is changing out the mailboxes for more high security locks,” Stacia Crane, spokeswoman for the US Postal Inspection Service told The Signal Friday.

“The Post Office in Santa Clarita is very involved in changing those locks,” she said.

Crane called the lock-changing plan “a huge process” with no estimation as to when all the existing NDBUs would be replaced.

“It’s happening all over California,” Crane said. “We are seeing it spread across the country.  We’re following a lot of drug dealers who obtain ID information from the mail.

“What happens is thieves sell the information to drug dealers,” she said, noting that the federal nationwide investigation is intensifying.

In the most recent case reported by victims to The Signal, thieves stole business checks from an NDBU on Center Point Parkway.

The thieves then cashed at least $30,000 in checks stolen from a local business after ransacking an NDBU on Center Point Jan. 7.

“We normally get a stack of checks, and would have on that day,” said a woman who identified herself as Michelle.

“When I went to get the mail, it was raining and got very little mail. And, I saw two pieces of mail on the ground,” she said, noting all the other mailboxes in the same NDBU were also hit.

That was her first clue something was wrong.

The confirmation that her company was victimized by mail thieves came a week later when checks totaling $30,000 had been fraudulently paid out to thieves.

“I’ve had to call all those customers. I have to file claims, make out affidavits,” Michelle said. “It’s a nightmare.

“If the (U.S.) Postal Service knew about this and didn’t alert anybody – why did they do that?,” she said. “They should have put out notices to alert people.”

The Jan. 7 incident is the third case of NDBU ransacking in the Santa Clarita Valley since October.

In early October, mail thieves broke into a Neighborhood mailbox on Avenue Scott and stole mail from the mailboxes of 20 businesses.

“It must be a pretty significant problem,” Cheryl Leehne, whose mail was stolen from Avenue Scott, told The Signal in October.

In September, thieves looted a NDBU on Avenue Stanford.

Leehne learned of the earlier mass mail theft from a man whose business on Avenue Stanford was also hit.

Victimized businesses on both Avenue Stanford and Avenue Scott began picking up their mail from the Creekside post office, Leehne said.

“Apparently, when they pop one of the locks on the outgoing mailboxes they can reach in and flip a latch from the inside which opens all the other boxes,” she said.

When asked about the locks being changed out, Crane said the technology is completely different from the current key system.


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