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Mail theft on the rise: Break-ins caught on camera show suspect stealing letters

Packages aren't the only things being frequently stolen: letters and other types of mail are, too.

SEATTLE — The United States Postal Service reported in May they are seeing a national uptick in mail theft, both from people's personal mailboxes and blue collection boxes. According to the Postal Inspector in Seattle, mail theft has been happening more often, locally.

Harvey Lever, the property manager of 22 apartment buildings around Seattle owned by Lynnmac Commercial, said one of his buildings in Magnolia was broken into Wednesday morning around 2:30 a.m.

In the process, loose letters near the tenants' mailboxes were stolen from their front mailroom.

Now, Lever is advising residents to safeguard themselves by picking up mail from their mailboxes every day.

"It’s a violation and it’s very unsettling for a lot of people," Lever said.

The suspect, a six-foot tall man with hair dyed blue, who is possibly 25 to 35 in age, pulled a tool out of his pocket to break the lock on a door and get in.

"Basically like a pair of pliers, but they can open wide, and they just really strong-armed the doorknob which was locked," Lever said.

His association is continuing to invest in security. 

"We now have a doorknob cover," Lever said. "This is another antitheft device.”

Lever said the theft of tenants' mail has been a recurring problem recently in the 22 apartment buildings he runs across Seattle. 

"They’ll be hit in the same exact night," Lever said. "And it’s not even just like Christmas, it’s all year round we get mailbox break-ins... they’ll take a pry device, they’ll rip the, basically the United States Postmaster key and the whole entire cage opens.” 

He said his company is spending thousands on repairs each time this happens.

"It’s a constant," Lever said. "It happens all the time."

USPS Postal Inspector John Wiegand said these types of thieves are often in it for possible financial gain.

"People aren’t after the card, the birthday card that grandma’s sending you, they’re after the birthday card that grandma’s sending you that also has a check in it, or after a bank statement, it may have a credit card that they can go use," Wiegand said.

The USPS is now cracking down.

"We are hardening targets – both physical and digital – to make them less desirable to thieves and working with our law enforcement partners to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Gary Barksdale, postal inspection service chief.

Wiegand said different public-facing locking systems are being upgraded, such as blue collection boxes.

He urged people to help protect their mail by emptying their mailbox more frequently, because the longer it’s there, “the more opportunity it gives for somebody to steal," as he put it.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect in the surveillance video is asked to contact the Seattle Police Department.

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