Law enforcement agencies are warning the public about a recent increase in mailbox thefts that have been reported across Thurston County.
At least 150 incidents have been reported online in the past two weeks, said Sgt. Carla Carter of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The thieves have targeted all types of mailboxes from the common curbside mailbox with the red flag to the lock-and-key cluster mailboxes that serve multiple residents.
“There’s no one specific area,” said Carter, who urged residents to consider using a post office box and to stop putting outgoing mail into their mailboxes.
Lacey Police Sgt. Jamie Newcomb said cluster mailboxes at 10 sites have been broken into this week around the city. The suspects are prying open the mailboxes and stealing the contents.
Newcomb told The Olympian that the department also has seen a rise in mailbox thefts in the past couple of weeks from south Lacey all the way north to the Jubilee neighborhood. People are encouraged to drop off their mail at a post office and report any suspicious activity to police.
“We’re telling folks to pick up their mail as soon or as close to when it gets delivered,” Newcomb said.
Both Carter and Newcomb suggested that the thieves could be looking for anything from identity information to cash or checks.
Olympia Police Lt. Paul Lower said the department has received reports of four mailbox break-ins so far this week and encourages the public to report any incidents. The department can track the reports and find trends that could lead to an arrest.
“Often, for the individual box, people don’t realize their mail has been stolen for a while,” Lower told The Olympian. “It usually comes in the form of them getting a bill for something they didn’t purchase or a telephone call from someone seeking money or delivery instructions for something they didn’t purchase.”
Beth Berendt, who lives in The Cove neighborhood in southeast Olympia, said her homeowner’s association is spending about $4,500 to replace its mailboxes — including a cluster mailbox that was damaged by thieves in the middle of the night Monday. She also noted that the area experienced a rash of package thefts during the holidays.
In the meantime, the neighborhood’s 30 households are picking up mail at the Olympia Post Office on Jefferson Street until the replacement mailboxes arrive in three weeks, Berendt said.
“Even though these are locking mailboxes,” she said, “they can’t stop somebody with a crowbar.”
BK Mailboxes co-owner Stacey McDaniel said her East Olympia business received 11 inquiries for new mailboxeson Wednesday alone. The Lacey Post Office has asked McDaniel to stock an inventory of new mailboxes in response to the thefts.
McDaniel typically sees an uptick in business when new neighborhoods are built and said the recent rash of thefts is troubling. She said the older cluster mailboxes are more vulnerable to break-ins because of a rim or lip on the mail doors, making them easier to pop open.
“I like to get calls when business improves, but not because people are getting vandalized and stolen from,” she said. “It’s been really troublesome to hear.”