Thefts from mailboxes in the Flathead Valley have been on the rise for the past month, particularly in the Bigfork area.
Bigfork Postmaster Tyler Thompson said he knows of at least 50 thefts from mailboxes ranging from Polson to Marion.
“It really has escalated quite a bit since the middle of August,” Thompson said. “A lot of people don’t even realize they’ve had something taken.
“We are asking customers to pick up their mail every day during daylight hours. If there is no mail in the box, there’s nothing to steal.”
Thompson also advised customers not to place outgoing mail in their boxes and to take any mail to the local post office, put it in a blue collection box or hand it to the mail carrier.
“Many residents of Bigfork have notified local law enforcement,” Thompson said. “Stolen mail or packages or mail that were properly delivered and then later found elsewhere should be reported to the county Sheriff’s Office,” Thompson said. “The post office works hard to safeguard mail while the post office has possession of that mail. Once mail has been properly delivered to the box, the responsibility to protect that mail rests with the customer. Any theft after delivery should be reported to local law enforcement.”
Thompson said he’s heard that some victims have had checks stolen and washed, a technique mail snatchers use to erase the ink and then rewrite the checks to themselves.
“It’s a constant problem,” Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry acknowledged. “We notice a rise in it particularly during the holidays, but it’s always an issue.”
Thompson also advised customers to check with their financial institutions to verify accounts are secure.
He also suggested buying and installing locking mailboxes.
“These could be individual locking mailboxes or community locking mailboxes if several neighbors agree to purchase them together,” Thompson said. “We can also put your mail on hold temporarily if you feel there is a need.”
Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 406-758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.