AUSTIN (KXAN) — City Council Member Mackenzie Kelly (District 6) issued a memo this week requesting action on preventing mail theft in Austin.

“The community is angry, not one person is happy that their mail is being stolen,” she said.

KXAN has covered mail theft sprees all throughout Central Texas.

Kelly said constituents’ repeated concerns prompted her to elevate the issue, asking the interim city manager to “send a letter to the postmaster general requesting a change of master keys for mailboxes across the city.”

Kelly noted “changing the master keys would require effort and resources,” but believes “the benefits of doing so are numerous.”

She further asked the city to define additional steps that can be taken to prevent mail theft.

Theft victims’ concerns

Mail thieves have hit Ashley Hornung’s northwest Austin condo complex several times.

“It’s very frustrating, it feels very violating,” she said. “I’m pregnant, so I’m getting a lot of medical bills that now I don’t have because somebody took them.”

She shared the below image with KXAN of two men who appear to be stealing her and her neighbors’ mail earlier this month.

surveillance image
Surveillance video appears to show two men stealing mail from a northwest Austin condo complex.

Hornung said the complex put gates up around the mailbox with a coded entry – but the alleged thieves pictured still found a way to get it. She said she appreciates the efforts her HOA has put forth to curb the crime, but hopes changes can be made on a higher level to prevent this from happening again.

“I’ve talked to people who have just decided to get a P.O. box and don’t even want to get their mail here anymore,” she said.

Mail theft penalties

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service could not provide information on Hornung’s case specifically, but said it has received reports of mail theft in Austin and “unauthorized Possession of a USPS key is a federal crime punishable by up to ten years in prison.”

In an email, the agency said USPS delivers mail to more than 150 million addresses and “every mailbox, from a neighborhood mailbox to a blue USPS collection box, has strong security measures in place to protect the contents. However, thieves will use a variety of methods and tools to attempt to bypass these security measures.”

Mail theft is a state and federal crime punishable by fines and up to five years in prison, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.