CYPRESS, Texas — Thieves are targeting community mailboxes across Houston, and the problem is even worse in the Cypress area where there's been a spike in forgery cases.
It has become such a problem that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating.
"They believe somebody has a key or a counterfeit key, so they're able to open these boxes," said Sgt. Joe Duke.
Sgt. Duke is with Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office. He said his department has seen an explosion of these types of incidents this month.
"Last couple of weeks we've had 15 cases in this area alone," said Duke. "We obviously have a problem out in this region."
The motive is the same. Crooks are breaking into the mailboxes using master keys. They swipe checks, wash them and make them out for large sums of money.
"I saw one for example that was made out for $75, when it hit the bank, it was for $7,000," said Duke.
Pct. 5 and the USPIS working to track down a suspect.
"If you see a vehicle that doesn't look like it should be at the box or a person that shouldn't be at the box, call us right away," said Duke.
USPIS says there are things you can do to prevent becoming a victim.
- Never leave your mail in the box overnight. Collect it as soon as possible after its delivered.
- If you're sending mail out, place it in the outgoing box in the morning, as close to the next pick-up time, to limit how long it sits there.
- When possible, drop off important mail directly at the Post Office.
"Keep an eye out. Be a set of extra eyes for us," said Duke. "We're looking for them."
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service sent us this statement in response to our questions:
"The Inspection Service has received reports of individuals tampering with mailboxes in the Cypress area. We understand that local residents are frustrated and assure them that Postal Inspectors are working hard in conjunction with our local law enforcement partners to identify and apprehend the suspect(s) involved. These investigations, however, do take time.
Part of the investigation is to determine how the suspect(s) obtained a postal key, as there are security measures in place to limit access to it. Unlawful possession of any key the Post Office uses to secure the mail is subject to a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison."