Cotswold tenants catch thieves breaking into office building mailbox repeatedly
Video captured on October 30th and November 13th showed thieves unlocking the mailbox and stealing mail.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Tenants in Charlotte are sounding the alarm about what they call rampant mail theft.
It’s a major security problem WBTV has been alerting you to for months.
Criminals are stealing master keys known as arrow keys, to break into mailboxes and steal mail.
In some of these cases, they are robbing postal workers at gunpoint.
Several business owners working out of an office building on South Sharon Amity Road are desperate for a solution.
Also Read: NC a ‘lawless’ land for HOAs and community associations
“We first discovered a check stolen in October of last year,” Katie Walker, who operates her law practice out of this building, said. “That check was around $26,000.”
Walker filed a police report and hoped it would not happen again.
“CMPD notified us that these arrow keys had been stolen and that the mail was compromised at our building, but we didn’t know arrow keys opened all the mailboxes or that there wasn’t some other security feature in place to stop the mail from continuing to be stolen,” she said.
After that check was stolen out of this mailbox, with several other thefts in the months that followed, they decided to take action by installing surveillance cameras.
They were shocked by what they captured.
First, on Oct. 30, men in hoodies and masks were caught breaking in and emptying the mail into trash bags. They attempted to do the same on Nov. 13, but this time most of the mailboxes were empty.
“I got a post office box for my office mail,” she said.
Heidi Risser works for a separate law practice in the same building. The videos reinforce her decision to get all of her mail sent to the post office.
“As long as they can’t break into the actual postal facility then it should be okay,” she said. “It seems to be working for now.”
Both women still want a long-term solution.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspector sent the following statement:
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s mission is to protect the U.S. Postal Service employees, customers, and it’s infrastructure by investigating illegal activity and ensuring the public’s trust in the mail. Every day, the U.S. Postal Service safely delivers mail to more than 163 million addresses; mail that includes checks, money orders, credit cards and merchandise. Unfortunately, such items are also attractive to thieves.
U.S. Postal Inspectors are working diligently with our local law enforcement partners to combat mail theft. Postal Inspectors use a variety of preventive and investigative tools to identify and arrest those individuals responsible for these crimes. To maintain the integrity of those investigations, the Inspection Service cannot provide additional details.
There are steps, however, that customers can take to keep their mail safe. Don’t let incoming mail sit in your mailbox. If you are expecting a check or an important delivery, Postal Inspectors recommend checking your mailbox daily and removing your mail as promptly as possible. Outgoing mail can be deposited inside your local post office or into a blue USPS collection box. If it is deposited into a collection box, be sure to do so BEFORE the final collection time of the day, which is displayed on the box. The longer your mail stays in the mailbox, the more susceptible it is to theft. Mail theft most often occurs in the over-night hours when there are no people around to witness the theft. Please visit www.uspis.gov for additional mail theft preventive tips.
WBTV followed up with additional questions, and received the following response:
To maintain the integrity of those investigations, the Inspection Service cannot provide additional details on the process or investigative steps we use.
These tenants are also looking into moving the location of these mailboxes, but it’s easier said than done.
“There’s a lot of regulations about it,” Walker said. “There’s not really a great location for that in the building, so we’re trying to work our way through that to find a solution.”
Even if these criminals are arrested, Walker worries the thefts will continue.
“Our office has had over $100,000 in attempts because they’ll take the check and reuse it over and over,” she said. “This issue is happening all across Charlotte. It must be in the millions of dollars.”
Walker says something has to change.
“I would like to see a new type of lock installed on the mailboxes, and also a notice to all of the businesses and residents in areas where the key has been compromised that your mail is at risk,” she said.
If you are concerned about the security of your mail, USPS recommends the following:
- Check your mail daily.
- Send outgoing mail at your local post office or a blue collection box before the final collection time of the day.
- The longer mail sits in the mailbox, particularly overnight, the more susceptible it is to theft.
Copyright 2022 WBTV. All rights reserved.