CLEVELAND — Signed, sealed and stolen? You may want to think twice about using the USPS blue mailboxes throughout Northeast Ohio after a master key was stolen from a postal carrier in Euclid, and several cities nearby have reported thefts from mailboxes.
Mailbox key stolen in Euclid
A USPS worker was robbed Saturday evening in Euclid and the thief absconded with a set of keys capable of opening apartment buildings and mailboxes, according to a Euclid police report.
It happened just before 6:30 p.m. in the 1400 block of East 196th Street on Jan. 22.
According to the report, the postal worker was walking east when she heard someone walk up behind her. She described the sound as someone stomping their feet or "trying to get the snow off their shoes," the report said. When the assailant reached her, he pulled out a gun and specifically demanded her keys, and didn't take her cellphone or wallet.
The man then ran off down the street towards a vehicle parked near East 196th Street and Roseland Avenue. Police wrote in the report there are currently no suspects. A specific description of the robber wasn't provided.
“They stole the keys, as well as her personal keys,” said a dispatcher in Euclid’s 911 audio from the incident.
The report states the robber took "arrow keys" which "have access to numerous apartment buildings and blue USPS mailboxes."
In a statement, USPS confirmed that the postal worker was okay, but didn’t confirm there are several universal keys missing.
"Postal Inspectors and the Euclid Police Department are actively investigating the recent robbery of a Postal Service employee which took place on Saturday, January 22, 2022.
As we are still in the information gathering process, the Inspection Service cannot provide specifics at this time; other than the fact that the postal employee was unharmed. Also, the Inspection Service cannot yet opine on whether this incident is isolated or linked to the string of recent blue box thefts.
Regarding the recent blue box thefts in Northern Ohio, the Inspection Service is extremely confident in the direction of the investigation and appreciate the great cooperation and partnership with our local law enforcement partners. As an update on this matter, there have been several local arrests made recently and the federal investigation is still ongoing. Again, with this being another ongoing investigation, we cannot provide any further details in order to preserve the integrity of this case.
As always, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service asks the communities in which our HEROES of the postal service serve each and every day to help support and protect them by reporting any suspicious activity towards them to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by calling 877-876-2455. This number can also be used to report any information related to the above referenced incidents."
It’s unclear just how many cities are affected, but News 5 has heard from several Northeast Ohio cities that suspect they may be victims of the mailbox key theft.
Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek has sent out a warning to his Ward 8 residents: Don’t use the blue mailboxes.
“I was informed by some postal workers and postal officials that the boxes have been compromised. I went to a postal branch where the station manager confirmed it, as well,” he said. “Somebody, allegedly, has a master key to the boxes.”
Polensek said several leaders in Cleveland’s surrounding suburbs have reached out to him about it.
“Many people still use mail. They write checks, their house payment, car payment, bills, they pop it conveniently into those blue boxes and if the boxes are being compromised and we now know checks are being altered why wouldn’t you inform people?” he said. “I think about how all that could be altered and how that could affect, not only your immediate financial situation but your credit grade in the long run.”
In Cleveland Heights
News 5 spoke to residents of Cleveland Heights who didn’t want to go on camera, but suspect it happened to them as they’re missing several big checks.
The public information officer at the Parma Police Department confirmed that well over $100,000 has been stolen from boxes in Parma. He said it’s suspected that the thieves are getting into the boxes using the key, stealing the checks, altering them for much more money and then cashing them using mobile apps.
How to handle your mail
Polensek is urging everyone to drop their mail off at a brick-and-mortar post office.
“Take it to the post office, physically take it inside. Do not take a chance, do not put it in the blue box,” he said. “I’m one of those people affected. I write checks. I put them in the mail, so, this is personal to me, as well as members of my family and we have to make sure we are all protected,” he said.
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