SHAVANO PARK – The town’s leaders say postal authorities plan to deliver sturdier mailboxes to foil thieves who are stealing cards, letters, packages and more from neighborhoods.
The city may also erect surveillance cameras around the mailboxes in hopes residents will be less likely to fall prey to the crime of mail theft, officials added.
City Manager Bill Hill said burglaries of residential cluster mailboxes are an ongoing problem in several cities, not just Shavano Park.
More than two years ago, a spate of similar letterbox break-ins in nearby Stone Oak led San Antonio police to launch extra patrols.
“You can read about this (mail theft) anywhere. In Shavano Park, we have a number of community mailboxes – primarily in our newer subdivisions. Just like a lot of the other subdivisions nearby, and in San Antonio, they have experienced an increasing amount of crime,” Hill said.
In late 2019, Shavano Park officials got word the U.S. Postal Service planned to upgrade the community mailboxes in the city.
No timeline for the completion of the project has been established.
Other options are also on the table, said Mayor Bob Werner.
Werner said town officials are looking at putting up some type of surveillance around cluster boxes and erecting signs letting would-be thieves know they are being watched.
“If people believe that there’s a chance they will be caught, they’re going to go to the place where they know there’s not a chance of getting caught,” Werner said.
“And I hate that we will wind up moving this problem to other neighborhoods — but that’s what’s going to happen,” the mayor added.
Shavano Park has been coordinating with the postmaster general to reduce the number of mailbox thefts, including asking for modifications to the boxes to make them less vulnerable to break-ins.
Thieves target the letter boxes looking for money, checks, credit cards or items they can use for identity theft, police say.
Last year, as part of an effort to attack the problem, Werner sent letters to U.S. senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, state Sen. Donna Campbell and state Rep. Lyle Larson.
Correspondence asking for help also went to the postmaster general and the inspector general in Washington, D.C., and the San Antonio postmaster general.
“We feel that the methods the United States Post Office uses to distribute mail leaves it vulnerable to threats and are unacceptable. We’re not pulling any punches — we’re saying it’s easy to put mail in 30 slots but it’s easy to break into those — so we are asking for a higher-quality mailbox,” Hill said.
The letters addressed the frustrations of residents and many other cluster-mailbox theft victims, who are often forced to get their mail from the local post office for months until the mailboxes can be repaired or replaced.
Werner said mail theft from community boxes is an ongoing problem nationwide.
“When I became mayor over four years ago, mail theft was already an issue. Apparently, every time they (the postal service) figure out a new way to set up the boxes, the criminals are just as innovative and they come up with a new way to open the boxes,” the mayor said.
During the 2019 legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed a bill making mail theft a state crime, paving the way for state and local authorities to handle the cases. Previously, mail theft had to be classified as property or identity theft and was handled by federal officers.
House Bill 37, which took effect Sept. 1, 2019, also increases the punishment for mail theft.
Meanwhile, Hill has some suggestions to help you avoid becoming the victim of a pilfered post. These include:
- Check mail as soon as possible after delivery
- Don’t send cash
- Hold mail at the post office while traveling extensively
- Deposit mail close to pickup time
- Use the “hold for pickup” option for packages and then pick up at the local post office