Uptick in mail theft prompts $100,000 reward for conviction of postal crimes

HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s a crime that’s more common than you’d think. We’re talking about mail theft.

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The US postal inspector tells me they take these crimes very seriously, even bumping up the reward being offered to catch the culprits.

Mark Schklov and Robbie Jessel live in a quiet Maunawili neighborhood . They consider it safe and said there’s very little crime. Then last month, they made an unsettling discovery.

“Mark and I generally walked twice a day. And we started in the morning at about 7:30 a.m. ,” Jessel said. “All of the mailboxes were open. The doors were open and there’s no mail-in them.”

KHON: “What are you thinking when you are seeing all of the mailboxes open?”

“We were just really concerned because it was just in our neighborhood,” Schklov said. “Then we came upon a whole bunch of mail on the ground. And we stopped and looked at it and thought, ‘Oh, my God, that’s the mail that’s been stolen.’”

They found it just blocks away from their house tossed into the bushes on the side of the road.

They notified their neighbors and reported it to the US Postal inspector. But Schklov said the mail they found wasn’t from their street–it had been taken from several streets in Kailua.

“Later on, some of our mail, some of our neighborhood mail, was also found dumped near the playground,” Schklov added. “So who knows where else they went.”

US Postal inspector Jeff Fitch said there’s been an uptick in mail theft in recent years it’s happening more often than you think.

“We’re getting complaints in on a regular basis, they come in daily,” Fitch explained. “Many times the male thieves are looking for attractive items, many times those are financial nature, anytime that causes so much distress for our victims.”

And he said it happens year round.

The USPS even increasing the reward for the arrest and conviction of perpetrators of postal crime from 10,000 to 100,000 as part of their project safe delivery campaign.

“The Postal Service is taking this very, very seriously,” Fitch said.

While porch pirates and mailbox theft is a problem locally, other states are also dealing with criminals robbing mail carriers. According to Fitch, there have been no reports of that happening in Hawaii.

His advice to homeowners how to prevent mail theft is simple:
Check your mailbox daily, never leave it overnight. And you’re expecting something of value, have it tracked and insured.

If your mail is stolen Fitch said “The key for the public is to make a report that makes all the difference.”

“It has to stop,” said Schklov.

The USPS 24-hour hotline for people to call to report mail theft is 877-876-2455. According to Fitch, the line is open weekends and holidays as well.

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Mail theft is a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.