by Dennis Dalman
Mail thieves have been operating for several weeks in the greater St. Cloud area, including in Sartell, as well as Waite Park.
At least 32 residents have called the Sartell Police Department since mid-January, reporting their mailbox covers were left open with no mail inside. Some of the callers reported they did not receive their W-2 tax forms or other important documents they were expecting.
The same kinds of tampering and/or thefts have been reported in St. Cloud and Waite Park.
Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes is advising residents not to put anything in their boxes as outgoing mail, at least until the culprits are caught. When mailing something – especially an important document – it’s best to drop it off at a local post office or in a postal box right outside a post office.
If people are expecting important mail, Hughes said it might be best to notify them to have the mail sent through another method or, if possible, to pick up the document in person (such as a W-2 form from an employer).
It’s probably no accident that such thefts or attempted thefts are happening as tax season approaches, law-enforcement officials have noted. The thieves may well be seeking personal information as revealed on W-2 forms or other tax-related documents. They can then sell the information to other crooks or use the information themselves for nefarious purposes.
Other cities throughout Minnesota have reported similar mailbox thefts, leading Hughes to believe much of the activity may be related via a network of thieves.
There have been reports of mail thefts in previous years about this time of year, according to the Sartell police department dispatcher, but nothing quite as extensive as the current rash of tampering and thefts, she added.
Thieves often drive up in a car to places where there are communal neighborhood mailboxes in one place or at a cul de sac where there are boxes all in one area. They then reach out of the vehicle and take mail, especially from boxes on which the red flag is raised, a sign it contains outgoing mail.
Hughes is urging all residents to keep an eye out for unfamiliar, prowling vehicles and then write down make-and-model and, most importantly if possible, the license number. Then they should call the Sartell police department immediately. The number is 320-251-8186.