DENVER — Residents of the Fairway Villas in Denver's Green Valley Ranch North neighborhood say they are worried that what happened to their mail could happen to others if a thief has a master postal key.
They said thieves broke into hundreds of cluster mailboxes last month, stealing mail and packages, and that the U.S. Postal Service did not immediately notify them.
"I was expecting a package, and it just never came," said resident Debra Meglio, who tracked her package and found records showing it was delivered to her neighborhood's secure locker. "Our neighborhood has cluster mailboxes with lockers for packages. My package wasn't there."
Meglio went to the closest post office in Montbello to find out where her package was. She was told there was an incident and that her cluster boxes were broken into. Meglio said that postal workers told her that a master postal key had been used to break into the boxes with potentially hundreds of people affected. She was also told her carrier had noticed the thefts and previously reported it, so she tried to make sure every single neighbor received notification.
"I wouldn't leave until they gave me the blue notification cards. They didn't have enough, so I waited until they printed out more," she said. "People need to know their medications, their bank statements, their personal information may have been stolen."
Ginny Schrantz, who lives across the street from the cluster mailboxes, said she is now considering getting a post office box, but the Montbello post office is 15 minutes away from her home.
"They knew about [the theft], but they didn't say a word to us, and that makes me not want to trust the post office," Schrantz said. "It took almost two weeks, and our neighbor is the one who told us."
Denver7 Investigates has submitted an open records request for the theft report, and is waiting for a response.
Melissa Atkin, a U.S. Postal Inspector, did not comment about the reports of delayed notification in this instance, but in an email, provided this information:
"When post offices become aware of theft from neighborhood collection boxes, blue cards notifying residents of the theft are typically delivered to each affected box. Often, residents are the first to become aware of the thefts, so we encourage anyone who believes their mail was stolen to report it by submitting an online complaint to the Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov/report or calling 877-876-2455. Also, it is extremely helpful to law enforcement if residents, HOAs, and apartment complexes are able to provide video surveillance cameras in the areas where neighborhood mailboxes are located in addition to reporting any instances of identity theft or check fraud that have occurred due to the mail theft. These are actionable leads we can and do pursue in an effort to hopefully catch and seek prosecution against those responsible for stealing the US Mail."
Meanwhile, the agency is expanding Project Safe Delivery, an initiative to prevent mail theft, in part, by replacing traditional postal keys with 49,000 electronic locks.
Atkins wrote that cluster boxes, such as the one in Green Valley Ranch North, would receive the upgrade to electronic locks, but the timeline is unknown.
"Obviously, they're not able to keep good track of these keys," said Meglio, who is now using informed delivery, checking mail every day and warning others that someone may have a key to their mailboxes. "I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done, but people should know."
The U.S. Postal Inspection provided these tips for protecting your mail and mail carriers:
- Don’t let incoming or outgoing mail sit in your mailbox. You can significantly reduce the chance of being victimized by simply removing your mail from your mailbox every day.
- Deposit outgoing mail through a number of secure manners, including inside your local post office or at your place of business or by handing it to a letter carrier.
- Sign up for Informed Delivery and get daily digest emails that preview your mail and packages scheduled to arrive soon.
- Become involved and engaged in your neighborhood via neighborhood watches and local social media groups to spread awareness and share information.
- Keep an eye out for your letter carrier. If you see something that looks suspicious, or you see someone following your carrier, call 911.
Customers are encouraged to report stolen mail as soon as possible by submitting an online complaint to the Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov/report or calling 877-876-2455.