Don’t use post office drop boxes due to uptick in mail theft, sheriff warns

“It’s something that’s real easy for a criminal to go in there and steal thousands and thousands of checks in just one day or a couple days,” said Sheriff Joe Lopinto.
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 4:46 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said they’re handling a rise in mail theft, with criminals allegedly stealing checks out of post office drop boxes, editing and cashing them.

Anecdotal accounts suggest a rise in mail theft across the New Orleans metropolitan area, although Jefferson Parish Joseph “Joe” Lopinto said it’s gotten to the point that he recommends residents not to use the post office drop boxes at all.

“When we’re doing search warrants and collecting 700, 800 checks from people, I mean that’s something that’s really a concern. I mean you’re talking about a lot of victims over a short period amount of time,” Lopinto said. “We’ve seen an uptick in arrests and that’s why we’re making sure that we put it out to the public.”

JPSO said they’ve made around a dozen arrests of individuals for mail theft. The sheriff’s office said the suspects are using stolen keys to open the familiar blue mailboxes.

“We’re asking people not to use them. The postal service would probably disagree with me there. But I mean we have more safe means to be able to [send mail],” Lopinto said.

Instead of using the boxes, Lopinto is suggesting to residents to go inside the post offices to send their mail.

U.S. Postal Inspectors who have spoken with FOX 8 said customers should note the pickup time listed on the box. Dropping off your mail after the pickup time for the day makes it vulnerable, as it sits in the box overnight.

“It’s something that’s real easy for a criminal to go in there and steal thousands and thousands of checks in just one day or a couple days,” Lopinto said.

Lopinto said his detectives are working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“It’s appalling really,” said Jarrilyn Stumpf from outside a post office in Gretna. “I mean, you think this would be the safest thing you could do. But I go inside myself now.”

And it’s not just the blue boxes being broken into; the sheriff’s office is also warning apartment complex residents that they’ve seen an uptick in thefts from cluster boxes.

The recommendation is that apartment residents check cluster boxes daily for mail.

“When you steal mail from a collection box, you are violating the trust people have in the U.S. Postal Service,” said Scott Fix, Inspector in Charge of the Houston Division of the USPIS. “Postal Inspectors proudly work with our local law enforcement partners such as the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to aggressively investigate and arrest anyone who disregards that trust. The Inspection Service will work tirelessly to maintain the safety and security of the U.S. Mail.”

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