Thieves use master key to get into buildings, steal mail in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When you think about mail theft, it usually involves someone swiping a package off a door step. But in San Francisco, someone is stealing items right out of mailboxes using a master key. Police are now asking resident to keep an eye out for the thieves, who are still on the loose.

They are brazen, even nonchalant. Security cameras show a duo entering an apartment building on Van Ness Avenue three times last month.

"They basically have a key to our building," said mail theft victim Caxton Rhodes.

Police believe that key is a stolen or counterfeit U.S. Postal Service master key the pair then used to buzz themselves in and grab whatever they wanted from the mailboxes. Rhodes says other buildings have also been hit.

"These guys are on the loose in the neighborhood," he said. "There's a key out there that gives them unlimited access to these buildings."

Master keys are specific to one postal zone. In this case, it's the 94109 zip code that's vulnerable."

There are more than 55,000 residents in that zip code that includes the Cow Hollow neighborhood. Residents want the mail box locks re-keyed.

When asked why it hasn't happened, U.S. Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch said, "All the security infrastructure that we have in place, that's all being assessed right now, being worked on as we speak."

Rhodes said, "Maybe this will put the pressure on."

With video this clear, you would think there are plenty of tips.

The penalty for possessing a USPS master key is up to 10 years in federal prison.
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