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Increase in mail theft cases in Houston area prompts removal of mailboxes, $50,000 rewards

The Harris County District Attorney's Office says armed robbers are holding up USPS letter carriers during daily mail routes, looking to steal their mailbox keys.

HOUSTON — The Houston area is seeing an increase in mail-theft cases, and it is more than stolen letters, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Several US Postal Service workers have been robbed during their mail routes by armed men.

Robbers are seeking to steal letter carriers' mailbox keys, specifically their “arrow key,” which is able to open multiple community mailboxes.

Friendswood resident Greg Casey could not believe it when he got a phone call from a police officer on Monday, telling him the bills he dropped off in the post office mailbox next week would not be delivered.

“Someone had been arrested with three of our checks in their possession,” Casey said. “They said it was an 18-year-old, arrested for another thing, but they said he had 42 other checks in his possession.”

Friendswood police said the suspect used a crowbar to pry open the blue mailbox at 3 a.m. Saturday.

USPS said the same thing happened to a mailbox on Masters Road in Manvel, however, it is not clear if the crimes are related.

Two men were arrested last month in separate suspected mail-theft incidents, and both had USPS arrow keys with them at the time, according to the DA's Office.

Prosecutors said Melvin Blunson held up a female letter carrier a few weeks ago in southeast Houston to get her set of universal keys to community mailboxes. Authorities have yet to make arrests for some of the other recent armed robberies of letter carriers.

Federal investigators have offered $50,000 each for information leading to arrests in two other Houston area hold-ups that have yet to be solved.

“You don’t mess with the US government,” said longtime Friendswood resident Joann Ashworth.

Ashworth has used the same post office for three decades and noticed the damaged blue mailbox has been removed from the corner. Stolen mail is not usually one of her pressing concerns, but because of the election, she says she is not taking any chances with her vote.

“I’m not mailing mine,” Ashworth said. “I’m going in person. No matter how long the line is.”