Even in the digital age, Dorothy Bucher writes letters and sends payments via the U.S. mail. But when her neighbor brought over a handful of her bills — soaking wet — she realized why some of her bills and letters weren’t getting through.
Bucher, in her 60s, lives in Eugene on River Road across from Danton Avenue. She said that every couple of weeks, someone plows through her street, destroys mailboxes, scatters (and sometimes steals) personal correspondence, bills and payments out of mailboxes.
“It’s probably the same people,” Bucher said. “(It happens) every few weeks, and then it stops, and then they start doing it again. It’s gotten so bad now, we just had all our mail thrown all over River Road.”
Mail theft is a class C felony in Oregon. According to USLegal, mail and identity theft has been reported by postal inspectors to be the number one white-collar crime in the nation. If convicted, offenders could spend up to five years in jail.
Bucher said that she began noticing the vandalism and theft about a year ago, and the mailboxes on her street were broken into as recently as July 3.
“When it happens, it’s been quiet for a while, and we think everything’s OK, and then — wham — really early in the morning, it happens,” Bucher said.
Riviera Baptist Church on River Road, across from Bucher’s home, has seen its share of mail mayhem in the past, church receptionist Teresa Haniuk said. About a year ago, someone repeatedly broke into the church’s locked mailbox over the course of two weeks. Haniuk said she hasn’t noticed any recent incidents.
Bucher said she has lost several bills, and some packages have been destroyed in the past few months, putting her finances and credit status at risk.
“It’s scary,” said Sgt. Carrie Carver, a spokeswoman for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office. “Your credit card number and all sorts of things come in the mail.”
Bucher called the sheriff’s office June 29 to report vandalism and theft that happened that day. But in order for officers to investigate the situation, Bucher was asked to fill out a Citizen Self Report form. This was easier said than done, Bucher said. She found the online form confusing and the website difficult to navigate.
“I don’t know where I’m supposed to fill it out; it’s ridiculous,” Bucher said.
Residents who want to report a mail theft can fill out a CSR online, under the “Report a Crime” tab on Lane County’s website at.
Carver said that she’s not surprised that the form was difficult.
“It’s a form that’s designed to be sort of a catch-all, so I can totally see how it would be confusing,” Carver said. “We normally won’t give out that form if we have a deputy available, but dispatch isn’t always in the position to take that information when they’re juggling all these calls.”
Bucher and her neighbors didn’t witness the mail theft or vandalism, so they have no suspect or vehicle information. Carver said this makes an investigation difficult, but added that filing a complaint online still is worthwhile.
“What if there are two people where one person has half the puzzle, and the other person has the other half, and together we might be able to get some suspect information,” Carver said.
The reports also help the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the agency that investigates mail theft and fraud.
Adam Sale, a postal inspector for the Eugene area, said that the Eugene Police Department sends all mail theft reports to the USPIS, and it investigates every one of them.
Bucher said that most of her neighbors are in their early- to late-80s, and they are vulnerable to mail and identity theft because they still rely heavily on traditional mail for correspondence, paying bills and other business now conducted online. Thus, she’s looking for any witnesses to mail tampering or vandalism of the mailboxes on her street.
Anyone who has any information can fill out a report online or call 877-876-2455 to speak with the postal inspection service.
In the meantime, residents concerned about mail theft can purchase a USPS-approved mail lock box at any commercial home improvement store.
“It’s getting so bad out here, we really just don’t know what to do,” Bucher said.
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“It’s gotten so bad now, we just had all our mail thrown all over River Road.”
— Dorothy Bucher, victim of mail theft