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Western Washington sees rise in mail theft during coronavirus pandemic

Residential burglaries are down because people are home, so thieves appear to be turning to an easy alternative, mail theft.

BELLEVUE, Wash — Law enforcement agencies on the Eastside are reporting an increase in mail theft during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is the second time in nine months our mail box has been broken into,” said Bellevue resident Lee White.

He has lived in Bellevue for 13 years and never had his mail stolen until now.

“We all have important mail coming to our house, and it’s extremely frustrating to have this happen not once, but twice in nine months. It’s extremely frustrating,” White said.

Bellevue Police say that mail theft has seen a sharp spike. And it’s not just happening in Bellevue.

In Burien, U.S. Postal Inspectors worked with the Burien Police department and the King County Sheriff's Office to bust two alleged mail thieves in the act.

Those two suspects were arrested and charged with second degree theft.

Kirkland Police also tweeted out a warning to pick up your mail regularly.

Capt. Joe Nault with Bellevue Police said crimes like residential burglaries are down because people are home during the day due the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order, so thieves appear to be turning to an easy alternative, mail theft.

“Criminals who usually do those things are falling back on mail and package theft to make up the difference. The other thing is, this is tax return season, so people are mailing a lot of sensitive documents they’re receiving a lot of sensitive documents, and those include some of the checks that are coming from the federal government to people’s mailboxes,” Nault said.

“Since the COVID virus has been going on we’ve noticed a 141% increase in mail theft,” Nault said.

The Bellevue Police Department's advises the following:

  • Track your mail through the US Postal Service
  • Pick your mail up as soon as it arrives
  • Invest in a locking mail box.

These are steps that White already took.

“I guess I have to invest in a much stronger mail box that is designed by the Department of Defense, and then probably put in one of those alarms that go off when people open your thing, or basically just go to the post office and get a P.O. Box,” White said.

“This is a crime of opportunity, so the goal here is to remove the opportunity as much as possible,” Nault said.

RELATED: GPS-bugged mail leads police to suspects in Burien mail thefts