Archive for Sunday, February 1, 2009

Agencies converge over stolen mail

February 1, 2009


Tips to prevent mail theft

• Don’t use the flag on your mailbox to signal outgoing mail. Carriers can tell by the address on the mail. “That flag is kind of a flag to the bad guys,” said Donald Obritsch, a U.S. Postal Inspector in the Kansas City field office.• To be more secure, take your outgoing mail to work or a post office if you don’t want to leave it in the mail box for a long period of time.• Promptly remove mail from your mail box after delivery.• Have the post office hold your mail while you are on vacation.• If you don’t receive a check you are expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.• More tips are available online at

SOURCE: U.S. Postal Inspection Service

A wide range of mail thefts in recent months in northeastern Kansas counties and Missouri has sparked a coordination effort of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The reported thefts have agencies targeting a set of suspects in one case. However, as officers met last week in Oskaloosa, they also expressed concern about an increasing trend of stolen checks and credit cards during tougher economic times.

“It’s hard to know that your mail has been stolen,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig said.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s officers have started patrolling more around rural area mailboxes after a few reported thefts where victims’ stolen credit cards were used in the past three months, he said.

The concern for agencies in several Kansas counties, the postal inspector’s office, Kansas City area law enforcement and the Missouri Highway Patrol is that a group of suspects seems to be behind some 50 to 60 reported thefts and other crimes in such a wide geographic area.

The rare meeting last week included law enforcement agencies from across the region to compare information about reported mail thefts, forgeries and some apparent vehicle burglaries that might be connected, officials said.

“It’s actually not that common for that many agencies to be involved,” said Donald Obritsch, a U.S. Postal Inspector in the Kansas City field office.

Also, jurisdiction issues were part of the discussion because some of the crimes can only be tried at the state level. However, if mail theft and bank fraud are alleged, those are federal crimes. Investigators met about trying to build a federal case, he said.

Obritsch said investigators have identified suspects, but no arrests had been made as of late last week. Herrig said one team of the suspects is believed to be a man and a woman, but others are thought to be involved.

In one instance, a Jefferson County resident didn’t report stolen mail until several days later. The victim first thought it was only a delivery problem and no mail came that day. Days later, the victim discovered someone had used a credit card because they took advantage of account numbers listed in the mail.

In Jefferson County, sheriff’s officers are patrolling and even talking to people near rural mail boxes, Herrig said.

It might be inconvenient for some residents, but officers want to be safe, he said.

“We hope they don’t get upset about us stopping to check. If it’s theirs, fine. Hopefully they’ll understand that we’re looking out for their best interest,” Herrig said.


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