One neighbor, who wishes to stay confidential, placed her and her husband's outgoing mail at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday (July 23). Within 15 minutes, they noticed their mailbox open.
"They went out to close the mailbox, thinking they hadn't closed it," relayed Patricia Yearin, the homeowners association president. "They saw that the mail was gone."
The husband and wife then noticed several of her neighbors on Deerbrook Way also had their mailboxes open. None of the side streets, where Yeargin lives, were affected by it. About 40 houses were at risk on Deerbrook, and at least six mailboxes had items taken from it.
According to Yeargin, some neighbors felt the need to cancel their checking accounts. In one Gwinnett County Police report, a resident reported that a $100 Amazon gift card was taken.
Another mailbox theft was reported that day, too, in the Colonial Estates subdivision next door to Deerbrook. The victim said he saw two men sitting in a cream-colored Chevrolet SUV grab his mail straight from the mailbox. They stopped at a second home, too, but he was unsure if they took anything.
Luckily, his mail that was stolen was not of any value, he told police. The incident happened so quickly that he wasn't able to tell anything else about the suspects or their car.
In the Deerbrook case, there was some confusion about if they should report it to the police or not. Yeargin's neighbor originally called Gwinnett Police's non-emergency line and was told that they needed to file a report with the USPS. They didn't realize until later that this information is false and that mail theft needs to be reported to the local police.
Being the homeowner's association president, Yeargin tried to get the word out there to be on the lookout. She emailed everybody in the neighborhood about the incident, and she also made photocopies and dropped them off at every home in the neighborhood.
"As a responsible neighbor, I felt like people needed to know that this had happened because a lot of people were at work," she said. "There's no way they would have known that their bills did not go out, and some things that they put in the mailbox were not going to go out because it was stolen."
She has advice for other neighborhoods if they are hit with the same crime, too.
"If you see anybody taking anything out of the mailbox, not only should you take their tag number and make a police report, you should notify your neighbors immediately."
Gwinnett County Police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith says it's best not to use a personal mailbox.
"It’s not a bad idea to put bills/checks in a blue box rather than putting them in your own mailbox with the flag up," he said.
The National Check Fraud Center website doesn't recommend using a USPS box, though. Here's the center's list of dos and don'ts:
- Don't leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. That little red flag is an invitation to thieves. Take outgoing mail to your office, or mail it at a post office or mailing outlet store.
- Don't mail holiday gifts from home: They'll not only steal your package, they'll peel off the stamps and use those, too.
- Don't put mail in street mailboxes: The highest rate of mail theft locally is from those big, blue Postal Service mailboxes located on street corners and at other public places.
- Send valuables via registered mail: Registered mail is kept under lock and key, and it is signed for every time it changes processing centers.
"I am not going to go that extra mile to put it in a dropbox. I work upstairs [at home] and I can see my mailbox," she said. She added that she also lives in a cul-de-sac, making it harder for someone to get the mail from a car in the street.
Do you leave your outgoing mail in your mailbox, or do you go to a dropbox for more security? Do you have a locked mailbox, or do you have a post office box? Tell us in the comments.
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