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Mail thefts spike during tax season
Two arrests made so far in local crime spree
Local police departments are asking residents to keep a close eye on their mailboxes following an increase in mail theft in Roseville and other communities across the metro. With tax season under way, some thieves have been rifling through people’s mailboxes searching for documents containing personal information that can be used to commit identity theft.
“We’ve noticed an uptick, which typically starts around the holidays, but really starts fast and furious in January when employers send out W2’s and 1099’s,” Roseville Police Lt. Lorne Rosand said.
Since late December, Rosand said his department has received 24 complaints of mail theft in the city, adding he suspects that number will increase over the next couple of months while income tax refunds are being mailed out.
According to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, two men were arrested by St. Paul Police in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood early Friday morning and charged with one count each of identity theft in connection with the recent crime spree. Run-Ger Vang, 25 and Chao Moua, 26 -- both of St. Paul -- were pulled over by St. Paul Police after officers matched the red Toyota RAV4 they were riding in to the one used in a rash of mail thefts in Roseville and Woodbury. The officers reported finding tax documents, checkbooks, unopened packages and credit cards of residents from several cities in the SUV. According to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, further investigation revealed the pair had used some of the credit cards and had cashed stolen checks made out to themselves.
The Roseville Police Department received a tip from a local resident last month, who captured images of the suspect vehicle with a home security camera. The surveillance footage is grainy, but shows a four-door red Toyota RAV4 SUV stopping at mailboxes along the street.
Rosand said the RAV4 appears to be the same suspect vehicle captured by another home security camera in Woodbury.
Mail theft reports lower in other nearby cities
While several nearby cities have reported some instances of mail theft recently, few have reported a spike in the federal crime as seen in Roseville.
A North St. Paul man recently handed images over to police of a young woman stealing a DVD rental from his mailbox. According to the police report, the homeowner told police he decided to check surveillance footage on his camera after noticing footprints in the snow leading to his front door. The footage revealed a young woman getting out of a maroon four-door Buick Lucerne and stealing a Netflix DVD rental out of his mailbox on the night of Jan. 22. The man told police officers he was less concerned about the $10 loss of the disc than the boldness of the unknown woman coming to his front door.
According to the North St. Paul Police Department, the last reported case of mail theft was in March of last year.
Police departments in the cities of Mounds View, New Brighton and St. Anthony Village have reported recent occurrences of mail theft, but the numbers of reported instances are low and nothing out of the ordinary, officials say.
Mounds View Police Chief Tom Kinney said his department has received a few reports of mail theft and mail tampering as of late, but there has not been any sightings of suspects, nor any vehicle descriptions or license plate numbers reported.
To the south, in New Brighton, Public Safety Director Bob Jacobson was happy to report that the city has not had any significant problems with mail theft. He said there has been just one reported mail theft in the last two months.
The situation in neighboring St. Anthony Village is similar. Police Chief John Ohl said there have been no reported cases of theft from mailboxes; however, there was one instance where a resident reported having a UPS package stolen from the front of his home. He said there was a similar occurrence in 2013, and just three reports of mail being stolen from mailboxes in the city for the entire year.
Protect yourself from mail theft
“The number one thing people can do to reduce their chances of mail being stolen is to never ever put outgoing mail into your mailbox,” Rosand said.
If residents insist on placing outgoing mail in their mailbox, Rosand suggests they never raise the red flag; as this is an easy giveaway to thieves. It’s better to hand-deliver outgoing mail to any of the numerous secured blue mailboxes provided by the U.S. Postal Service, he noted.
Rosand also recommends residents have a trusted neighbor collect their mail when they’re out of town or notify the Postal Service to stop delivery temporarily until they return. There is also the option of using a P.O. Box or purchasing a box that locks.
By switching to online payment options for bills, residents can further improve their chances of not becoming victims of identity theft, Rosand added.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7824. Kaitlyn Roby contributed to this report.