Several times over the past few weeks, vandals have broken into NBUs, Neighborhood Box Units, in a number of Escalon neighborhoods, looking to steal mail and any valuables they could find.
“It’s called a volume attack because it affects more than one individual box,” Escalon Postmaster Ken Crandal said of the mail theft and mailbox vandalism. “They have damaged NBUs on Mission, Yosemite, Thaddeous and, most recently, on Jessica Circle.”
The Jessica Circle vandalism occurred late last week and Crandal said it was the latest in a string of disruptive attacks.
The boxes are pried open and the mail gone through, he said. Escalon Police have been notified and are stepping up their efforts in the investigation, following up on some leads. Detective Anthony Hardgraves is the lead investigator in the case.
“California, according to a teleconference we had recently with Sacramento, has more mail theft than all the other states combined,” Crandal said.
In an effort to help customers protect themselves, Crandal said the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has issued some tips.
Use the letter slots inside the Post Office for mail or hand it to a letter carrier for outgoing mail, as opposed to putting it in the neighborhood box. Mail should be picked up promptly after delivery; do not leave mail in the mailbox overnight. If you are away at the time of delivery, arrange to have a friend or trusted neighbor pick up your mail.
Contact the issuing agency immediately if a check or item you are expecting doesn’t arrive when anticipated. Report all suspected mail theft to a Postal Inspector.
Crandal said residents can also check with the local post office for up to date regulations on mailboxes.
The Neighborhood Box Units that were damaged will be replaced and the cost for replacing the entire unit puts the monetary amount of the damage over the felony threshold, said Crandal.
“The boxes themselves are $1,500 each and that makes it a felony,” he said. “We had boxes on Justin that were damaged about two years ago, then one on California. The latest incidents make it six in my area. Now it’s personal.”
While the neighborhood units are being replaced, Crandal said the post office will hold the mail for residents and they also provide them with a letter detailing the incident and offering some steps to take to protect against identity theft.
While mail theft is “rampant” in many areas of the state, Crandal said it hasn’t been as bad here, but is starting to reach epidemic levels.