Whether it’s maple syrup, white glue or the sticky substance used in glue traps to catch rodents, mail thieves are stealing mail by coating the inside of mailboxes with a letter-catching adhesive rendering mail easy to grab.
“We call it ‘fishing,’” said Stacia L. Crane, spokeswoman for the US Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service. “We call it that because it’s like those old carnival fishing games where you have to catch a fish in a box with a cord for a prize.”
In this case, the prize for mail thieves is money to be made by “washing” stolen cheques, using stolen credit cards and exploiting stolen identity information.
The “sticky stolen mail” incidents were first reported to The Signal by a Castaic woman named Tracy, who refused to give her last name due to potential identity theft concerns.
This past weekend, she placed six checks totaling $3,000 in a streetside blue mailbox on Live Oak Road, not far from The Old Road.
On Friday, after fretting an entire week that they were stolen, not one of the checks had been cashed. Now, after talking to official with the US Postal Inspection Service, her worst fears were confirmed.
“I got out of my car, went to put the mail in the mailbox and I pulled the handle down to see the mail went down. I saw what looked like syrup all on the (inside) wall of the mailbox,” she said.
“I could see mail stuck to the back of the mailbox,” she said.
The woman went back to her car, she said, grabbed a clothes hanger to “knock the mail down.”
She also called the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and the U.S. Postal Service. Deputies referred her, she said, to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“They told me they know about and that people go (mail) fishing,” she said, referring to U.S. Postal officials. “I’m worried now that none of my bills have been cashed.”
Postal officials are in the process of “modifying” mailboxes to make it difficult for sticky mail retrieval, specifically, Crane said, by narrowing the mail slots.
What’s troubling to postal officials is that behind the sticky mail crime and other crimes of mail theft are drug addicts brazenly — even in the daylight — stealing mail to trade for drugs.
“The thief hopes (mail users) don’t look into the mailbox to see if the mail went down,” she said.
“They use a lot of things to get the mail to stick,” she said. “They use those rat-trap glue pads.”
“The thieves doing this are druggies who trade the mail with their dealer for drugs and the dealer washes checks to cash them or uses the identity information,” she said, referring to methods of altering check information.
Asked about the practice of raiding residential roadside mailboxes, Crane said thieves no longer wait for the cover of night to drive up and down residential streets, stealing directly from mailboxes.
“These people are doing it broad daylight,” Crane said, noting that when US Postal Inspectors obtain search warrants on suspects they often find drugs and drug paraphernalia.
“These are druggies who can sit there all day and night,” she said.
Crane’s advice: “Look around. If you see someone hanging around the mailbox, walk away.”