AUSTIN (KXAN) — Neighbors in a west Austin neighborhood woke up Sunday morning to find their mail stolen right from their mailbox in an apparent case of widespread mail theft.
Jim Barrilleaux, who lives on Peregrine Falcon Drive in the Woodhaven neighborhood, said he noticed his mailbox was wide open. When he walked outside, he noticed nearly every mailbox down the street had also been sifted through.
“We were expecting new credit cards. We’re probably going to have to have those cards cancelled,” Barrilleaux said. “Every single mailbox was open.”
RING doorbell camera footage shows a white, 4-door pickup truck driving slowly down the street. Someone on foot follows right behind, stopping at each house, presumably to snatch the mail.
Neighbors have filed a police report with the Austin Police Department. Detectives said this is an active case and depending on what the investigation yields, the suspects could face anything from a Class A misdemeanor to a first degree felony.
A law that took effect Sept. 1, 2019 makes certain cases of mail theft a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. Stealing from 10 or more addresses is now a state jail felony, carrying up to two years in jail and $10,000 in fines. Penalties are enhanced if the thief intended to get someone’s identifying information or if the victim is disabled or elderly.
“They didn’t just dig through it, they quickly got everything out of it,” said Kim McKelvy, who was expecting Christmas gifts for her daughter in her mailbox this weekend. “It definitely puts a damper on the season.”
The United States Postal Service said this happens a lot more toward the end of the year as thieves target “attractive parcels” like gift cards and checks.
In November, 134 people reported some sort of mail theft to Austin 311. There were more than half of that, 75 cases, in the first week of December alone.
“I think I’m going to have to try to protect myself and my neighbors,” Barrilleaux said.
If you think you might be a victim of mail theft, the USPS postal inspector said you should report it. They can begin their investigation right away and may even be able to find your stolen goods faster than local police.
You can report it by going to USPIS.gov or calling 877-876-2455.
If you go out of town, the postal inspector said to ask USPS to hold your mail. And finally, never leave your mail overnight. If you are expecting important materials through the mail, pick it up right away or check often.
Tonight on KXAN News at 6:00 p.m., Alex Caprariello will share tips to safely secure your valuable mail during the holiday season.