HOPKINTON — An investigation into reports that outgoing mail was stolen from mailboxes at all three of the town’s post offices have led police to discover the thefts were part of a crime trend targeting U.S. Postal Service locations across the nation.
Hopkinton police said Tuesday that an investigation into the June theft of several pieces of mail that were taken from mail drop boxes at the Hopkinton, Hope Valley and Ashaway post offices revealed that several business and personal checks were taken and cashed, some costing victims “tens of thousands of dollars.”
Both businesses and individuals have been victimized by the thefts, Police Capt. Mark Carrier said.
“This is not someone we believe lived around here, and we have traced stolen checks and determined they were cashed in New York,” Carrier said. “At this point, this is something we understand is a problem occurring across the nation involving post office locations, and we are working with federal agencies to bring those involved to justice.”
The case remains under investigation and police were unable to release further details.
The latest information comes after the town released a statement in late June asking residents to be aware and take precautions to not leave mail in post office drop boxes for any extended period of time.
According to Hopkinton police, the department had taken numerous complaints in mid-June regarding boxes that were tampered with at each of the town’s three post office locations. In each incident, those involved used “various techniques” to retrieve mail that had been left inside the drop boxes, including several business checks that were mailed in an attempt to pay a company’s bills.
In most cases, the police said culprits were able to wash the checks and reissue them for deposit into a separate account established for cashing the checks.
Since issuing an alert, Carrier said the agency has not taken any further complaints in the community. He said similar incidents have been reported on occasion across the region, however, with each case occurring at smaller post offices where boxes were in poorly lit areas without surveillance cameras.
“We have stepped up efforts to monitor locations and conducted additional checks at each of the post offices,” Carrier said. “The post office has also installed tamper-resistant boxes and taken added measures to enhance security.”
Carrier said local residents should still take precautions in order to avoid falling victim to the scheme, including checking the pick-up times posted on the mailboxes and coordinating mail drops so that items are not waiting in mailboxes for any significant period of time.
“The big thing is just to plan ahead. If a box isn’t going to be picked up until Monday morning, it probably isn’t a good idea to drop mail with a check inside on Friday evening,” he said.
Whenever possible, he said residents should also consider taking time to go inside the post office during regular business hours, as it will provide added security and eliminate the wait times of having the mail sitting inside a box.
Carrier said if residents see something suspicious, they are also encouraged to call the Hopkinton Police Department for assistance.
“This is a difficult crime to track down. In most instances, it would seem to those driving by, including an officer, that they are just dropping something in a mailbox,” he explained. “If residents have concerns, we want to hear from them. We’d rather respond and find out it's nothing than have to take a report that someone is out thousands of dollars.”