Mail Theft Down 70% - Tucson News Now

Mail Theft Down 70%

By Som Lisaius, KOLD News 13

For a city that didn't even have a Postal Inspector's office ten years ago, Tucson is definitely headed in the right direction when it comes to mail theft. As recently as 2002, Southern Arizona led the nation in cases per capita. Today the numbers are down as much as 70 percent.

"This is really a success story." Jim harper is lead inspector and one of seven total inspectors at the Tucson office.

In 2002, he says there were 485 reports of stolen mail from cluster boxes like these. In the last fiscal year which just ended Sept. 30th, that number dropped to 124 cases.

Says Inspector Harper, "When we get federal prosecutions, the criminals know that there are consequences for their actions. If they're gonna commit a crime, they're gonna be arrested; they're gonna be charged and they're gonna pay whatever price that is."

That is up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for every piece of stolen mail. To combat the trend, fewer people are sending and receiving mail the old fashioned way. While many of those who do have opted for more secure mailboxes like this.

In addition to greater awareness, pro-active prosecutors and stronger mailboxes, officials say retailers have increased their efforts as well. And stores like Target are a perfect case in point.

With stolen mail, crooks use fraudulent checks, credit cards and bank cards to make purchases.  With better surveillance, many are getting caught red handed.

"They're actually obtaining very sophisticated camera equipment so if you walk into the store there might be 70 or 80 cameras functioning at all times."

But the fight continues. Today inspectors are still looking for suspected mail thieves like Kerrie Jayne Avon, Shane Grant Roush and Tracy Lynn Rucker. As of tonight, there's an active federal warrant in each of their names.

"Many times when they see their picture on Channel 13 they come in and self surrender--that's the right thing to do," Harper says.  "But if they don't, we'll still get them."  

To give you some idea how aggressive federal prosecutors have increasingly been here in Tucson, they prosecuted 45 mail theft cases in 2004; 58 in 2005; and 72 in fiscal year 2006. They realize mail theft is a serious crime. And those responsible have some serious consequences.

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