Grinchy thieves put damper on holidays through mail thefts

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

Along with twinkling lights and gifts, the holiday season also has prompted mail theft, authorities say.

“There’s always a spike in mail theft during this time of the year,” Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Peregrin said Tuesday.

Peregrin said a common tactic of mail thieves is to hit several mail boxes along a given road, drive to a secluded area to sift through the mail for valuables — such as gift cards or checks — and then dump the rest.

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the Sequim and Port Angeles police departments have recovered stolen mail found dumped in secluded areas away from its proper address, according to representatives of each of the law enforcement agencies.

Representatives of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Forks and Port Townsend police departments said those agencies have not found stolen mail.

Officer Luke Bogues, Port Townsend police spokesman, said his officers have, however, received three reports of missing packages from city residents within the past two weeks.

“I wouldn’t say there has been a rash of them, but for those individuals it’s disappointing for the holiday season,” Bogues said.

“These thieves are targeting holiday gifts, because they know that’s when the good stuff is coming.”

Peregrin said the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office has received several calls of mail found discarded along county roads such as Blue Mountain Road, areas where homes are generally spread farther apart than within a city.

“It has been a combination of people calling in and us finding mail,” Peregrin said.

Others include addresses along O’Brien Road and John Jacobs Road, he added, all far south of U.S. Highway 101.

Sheriff’s deputies are in the process of combing through the found mail and contacting the rightful owners, Peregrin said.

Once contacted, deputies will likely ask the owners when, if at all, they noticed their mail missing and if they’ve been away from their homes for an extended period of time, Peregrin explained.

“Every one of those [questions] provides us some information on who we might be looking for; at least the time frame [in which] it might be happening,” Peregrin said.

Sequim Deputy Chief Sheri Crain said officers have so far recovered a single shopping bag full of discarded mail off Seventh Avenue, the first reported to the Police Department since Thanksgiving.

“I would say that this holiday season has been no worse than others,” Crain said.

Officers were still looking through the mail Tuesday morning to see how many different addresses had been affected.

Brian Smith, deputy Port Angeles police chief, said Port Angeles police have recovered dumped mail from addresses along East 10th and Cherry streets.

“In the last day, we’ve seen an increase in this activity,” Smith said.

“But it’s to be expected.”

All law enforcement representatives interviewed agree neighbors keeping watch on area mailboxes and reporting suspicious people is the best way to combat mail theft.

“We just appreciate members of the community and their vigilance, and their willingness to call us if they suspect their mail’s being tampered with,” Smith said.

“It’s very hard to tamper with mail in a neighborhood if there’s the expectation that people are watching.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 24. 2013 7:58PM
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