Rep. Mike Thompson’s office in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that immediate changes should be made to help thwart mail theft from over-flowing collection boxes at a Vallejo post office.
Local postal service officials were asked by Thompson’s casework team to “empty these boxes more frequently. The Postmaster has committed to emptying the boxes on Mondays by 11 a.m. and “we are in discussion to see if additional action can be taken on a daily basis,” said Alex Macfarlane, Thompson’s communications director.
In the continuing saga of Dwight Ely and Carmela Meely’s mail theft woes from the collection box at the Valle Vista and Napa streets post office, the Vallejo couple has had $5,000 of the $12,200 fraud expenses reimbursed by their bank.
Alerted to the pending Monday pickup of weekend drop-off mail, Meely said she “was not impressed. I don’t think it’s enough. They do this Band-Aid crap. They need an earlier pick-up every day or a third pick-up or change the specifications of a mail box so it can’t be vulnerable.”
The Times-Herald reported the local couple’s plight after Ely, a retired superior court judge, dropped a credit card payment check Oct. 14 at one of the two collection boxes at the end of the Valle Vista post office. Two weeks later, the couple received correspondence from the credit card company that the payment was never received.
It was discovered that, on a regular basis, the collection box overflows with mail from COVID-19 concerned customers avoiding the inside of the facility. Earlier this week, Meely and the Times-Herald visited the site and Meely demonstrated how anyone could grab a handful of mail without much of an effort.
“I’m not letting this go,” Meely said, though the retired flight attendant and Hogan High School graduate acknowledged that the Vallejo police “have bigger fish to fry.”
Meely said she knows who the two suspects are and will post “wanted” fliers around town.
“I’m mad. Nobody’s doing anything. That’s what makes me heart-sick,” Meely said by phone Wednesday morning. “I know this is happening to others.”
Jeff Fitch, a 26-year postal inspector and public information officer for the law enforcement arm of the post office’s regional branch in Richmond, said Wednesday morning that “we’re talking with operations …. consulting with postal management and evaluating the security” of the collection boxes.
“We have to look at upgrades to make the mail safer,” Fitch said, adding that mail theft is a federal crime with a conviction sending the guilty party to federal prison up to five years and a fine up to $250,000.
Fitch wouldn’t say if the collection boxes at the Vallejo post office are in the vicinity of security cameras.
“Usually, we don’t share that information,” he said.
Fitch emphasized that anyone witnessing mail theft — be it at a post office collection box or a residency — is encouraged to call 877-876-2455.
“If you spot something, report back to us,” he said.
There is, Fitch noted, a standing reward of $10,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for mail theft.
Mail theft is up state-wide “across the board” of resident mail boxes, collection boxes and “cluster boxes,” said Fitch.
“We’re asking people to stay vigilant. If you see something, report it even if it’s just an information report online with the local police or sheriff’s department,” Fitch said. “We do track the information.”