SAN ANTONIO - In an investigation of mail theft reports in San Antonio, the KSAT 12 Defenders found 782 reports in a recent 26-month period with reported losses totaling $265,862.39.
The vast majority of those reports did not identify the object reported stolen.
However, electronics and audio/visual products were reported stolen 27 times.
There were 21 reports of checks and money orders stolen, 18 reports of credit, debit, ATM or phone cards stolen and 10 thefts of cash or jewelry.
There were also five reports of financial statements stolen, but no dollar loss was given.
Overall, Michael Martinez Partida of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in San Antonio said thefts are up.
"It's a little higher than average but I do see a decrease now occurring, fortunately, so we're hoping that that trend continues," Martinez Partida said. "A number of the ones that I looked at were cases we had investigated and made arrests on."
He said the U.S. Postal Service processes about 400 million pieces of mail a day and theft involves only a tiny fraction of that mail.
He also said because victims self-report thefts, they're not always accurate, like one for $50,000 that was listed on documents obtained by the Defenders.
"In that particular case it was a civil dispute between two parties that were arguing over a mailbox," Martinez Partida said.
He said thieves often target mailboxes at apartments where they break open the boxes and go on a shopping spree.
Packages are sometimes plucked off of doorsteps.
While the postal service says the vast majority of mail and packages are delivered safely, there are a few guidelines to observe to avoid mail theft.
"We always recommend that the public go ahead and go and get their mail as soon as possible," Martinez Partida said. "Don't leave the mail in there for weeks on end because basically all you're doing is just giving more mail to somebody who might attempt something like that."
He also urged mail patrons to avoid mail drop boxes if possible.
"Always either go inside the post office, drop them in there," Martinez Partida said. "If there's a mail slot inside the post office you can do that."
He also urged people, if they are not going to be home for a package delivery, to let neighbors know to pick up packages.
"Especially with the packages, they're crimes of opportunity," Martinez Partida said. "Somebody's going by, they see a box sitting on the porch, sitting on top of the mailbox and they think it's an easy snag."
He urged patrons to never mail cash.
Gift cards can be tracked.
In San Antonio the Postal Inspection Service makes 12 to 15 arrests a year for mail theft.
Convictions can result in five years in prison for each count.
To report mail theft, call 877-876-2455.
To file a mail theft online, visit the U.S. Postal Service website where you can report mail theft online.
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