RICHMOND, Calif. - Mailbox thefts are on the rise, and in one community the thieves are so brazen they're even stealing entire cluster mailboxes with mail for more than a dozen people.
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Postal officials say they are working to find a solution to the problem.
Bags and boxes full of stolen mail have been recovered by postal inspectors. It's just a fraction of the packages and letters that suspects are stealing from communities all over the Bay Area.
"As the law enforcement arm of the post office, we're actively investigating these break-ins and the mail that's being taken," said US Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch.
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Fitch says for the past year and a half, mail thefts have been increasing throughout California. Many thieves use counterfeit keys to break into cluster mailboxes at housing developments and apartment complexes leaving residents with broken mailboxes and long waits at the post office to pick up their mail in person.
But the postal inspector says they are making progress.
In just the past month, the postal inspectors have arrested 15 men and women for mail and identity theft in Contra Costa, Alameda, and Solano counties. In the past six months, dozens more mail thieves have been arrested all over the bay area.
The post office says they are working to prevent mail theft. "There are higher security boxes that are out there," said Fitch.
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The postal inspector says the suspects are so aggressive that just this past month in Martinez, thieves ripped a cluster box with brand new post office lock technology out of the ground in order to steal the mail and possibly build new counterfeit keys.