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Fairbanks-area residents on edge about mail thefts

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Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012 12:00 am

FAIRBANKS — Some Fairbanks-area residents are on edge about mail theft after several piles of discarded mail were found near local mail boxes.

In the midst of a recent cold snap, residents reported their mailboxes had been rummaged, with piles of mail lying nearby outside.

Signs posted near mailbox clusters along Spring Glade Road and Ski Boot Hill recently warned residents to be alert. Scattered mail has also been reported along Summit Drive and other areas.

“WATCH OUT,” read a sign from a resident who found 87 pieces of discarded mail on the ground around Spring Glade. “There is a thief stealing mail from mailboxes.”

Both the Postal Service and Alaska State Troopers say there hasn’t been an extraordinary surge in recent mail theft reports in the Fairbanks area. But the isolation provided by cold weather and the noticeable absence of missing Christmas checks has helped underscore the problem.

“I think they’ve been pretty consistent,” said Trooper Sgt. Scott Johnson. “I think there’s probably more abuse during the holidays just because there’s more mail.”

Blessie Lochmann, the U.S. Postal Service’s acting manager of marketing in the Alaska District, said there are plans to send a postal inspector to the Fairbanks area to delve deeper into the issue of stolen mail.

Johnson said mail thefts are a stubborn problem in Fairbanks. Drug arrests in recent years have sometimes included the discovery of stolen mail, which provides an easy way to find checks, cash or information that can be used for identity theft.

“Sometimes stolen mail is associated with other crimes as well,” Johnson said. “It’s a matter of opportunity.”

Both Troopers and USPS officials recommend that neighbors work together to purchase a bank of locked mailboxes, which can only be opened by mail carriers or homeowners. Johnson said residents shouldn’t hesitate to jot down the descriptions of unfamiliar vehicles around mailboxes, including license plate numbers.

Doug Norton, whose home is near the Dog Mushers Hall, said his mail was recently found in a discard pile. It happens about once a year, he said, leading neighbors to discuss everything from organized watch schedules to the installation of hidden surveillance cameras.

Norton said it’s disappointing that mail thieves can have such an impact on a neighborhood.

“There’s really not much you can do,” he said. “You’re at the mercy of these chumps.”

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