The post office department got a great deal of press in 2020. Most of this press revolved around issues such as funding, voting, and why holiday packages are taking so long to arrive. One of the issues the press hasn’t routinely commented on is mailbox theft. Many California residents don’t realize just how big an issue this has become.
Mailbox Thefts in California
In February 2020, residents of El Dorado County were warned that they needed to pay attention to their mailboxes. The warning was issued after several mailboxes in front of homes were robbed. The week before, approximately 100 Placer County residents reported that they’d had items swiped from their mailboxes.
Another surge in mailbox thefts was reported in the spring of 2020 when both government stimulus checks and unemployment checks were mailed to people.
Preventing Mailbox Theft
There are several things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a mailbox theft victim. These include:
- Collecting your mail every day as soon as possible
- Keep your mailbox in good repair
- Bring outgoing mail to the post office. Don’t mail it from your mailbox
- Equip your mailbox with mailbox chimes
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of mailbox theft, you need to contact the post office right away and alert them to the situation. It wouldn’t hurt to have your mail sent to a post office box for a few weeks while you work to resolve the situation.
What Happens if you’re Accused of Mailbox Theft?
California’s lawmakers take mailbox theft seriously. They’re ready and willing to crack down on anyone who is caught stealing mail and packages. The matter is addressed in the California Penal Code §530.5(e.)
Charges will be filed against you if you:
- Remove mail from a box without getting the owner’s permission
- Using deception, such as claiming to be a family member, for the specific purpose of gaining access to their mail
- Knowingly destroying mail that doesn’t belong to you
- Knowingly opening mail that isn’t yours
- Receiving/buying mail that belongs to another
- Destroying a mailbox
Mail theft in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re found guilty, you could be sentenced to 12 months in jail and/or required to pay a $1,000 fine. If it’s decided that you should be charged and tired in a federal court, you’ll face felony charges. In this case, a guilty conviction will result in substantial fines and up to 5 years in federal prison.
The best way to avoid mailbox theft in California is to ignore any mail that doesn’t have your name printed on the shipping label.