BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Mailbox thieves continue to sweep through town, getting away with mail and packages. It’s happened at least twice already this month, residents go collect their mail only to find their mailbox has been looted and mail must be picked up at their local post office.
One of those residents, Jose Gonzalez has lived in Northwest Bakersfield for 20 years.
“It’s very easy to open it,” said Gonzalez as he shows 17 News the vandalized mailbox. “What they do is that they open it and they take all the mail, I’ve lived in this neighborhood 20 years and this is the 4th, 5th time.”
It’s a federal crime that saw a 600-percent jump in 2020 since 2017 and it is punishable with up to 5 years in prison and a fine of upwards of $250,000.
Residents like William Harris are losing hundreds of dollars in packages and important correspondence.
“You just feel violated,” said Harris. “We shipped out some gift cards and presents and they got stolen.”
After mailboxes are broken into and until they are fixed, mail must be picked up at the local post office branch.
“Long lines at the post office, residents in the area all trying to get their mail at the same time,” said Harris. “Which can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.”
US Postal Service Inspector Sonia Perez reassures they investigate every single complaint that they receive.
“When we do obtain any mail theft complaints, we do follow up with them,” said Perez. “We ask customers to provide all the information of the incident, dates, everything that could’ve been stolen.”
Perez encourages customers to report any suspicious activity, the golden rule here: if you see something, say something. But residents like Gonzalez, don’t often know what thieves took off with.
“Documents, medication,” said Gonzalez. “So, when they break into these boxes you don’t know what they stole from you.”
Not having an idea what was stolen gets difficult when having to report the crime.
“We encourage customers to have informed delivery,” said Perez. “So they know what is coming to them and they are able to provide that to a postal inspection service and later on we are able to identify a suspect and tie that mail to them we can confirm a victim.”
Perez did add that you should collect your mail daily to prevent losing anything valuable if theft persists. The federal crime can be reported to the USPS Hotline at 877-876-2455.