Home surveillance video and the registration of a stolen car have surfaced in the wake of a widespread mailbox vandalism spree that took place over the weekend on the outskirts of Novato.
Marin County Sheriff's deputies continue to investigate the rash of mailbox thefts in the Green Point neighborhood of unincorporated Novato. About two dozen mailboxes on H Lane, Atherton Avenue, School Road and Crest Road were emptied and the boxes were scattered on the roadways, Lt. Barry Heying said. The content losses were undetermined, he said.
On Wednesday, Heying said deputies found a vehicle registration slip for a car that had been reported stolen to Vallejo police earlier that evening. Heying said stolen cars are often used in the act of other crimes.
Also, a homeowner in the Crest Road area captured video images of the same car that night with two men inside. No description of the men was available.
The car was found abandoned in Marinwood with some stolen mail inside the next day, Heying said. Investigators took fingerprint samples, but no suspects have been identified, he said.
The vandalized mailboxes were the unlocked type, most mounted on posts in the ground.
Heying said mail theft has been a frequent occurrence in Marin with many of the thieves coming from out of the county and passing through during a few hours. It is easy for thieves to drive next to roadside boxes and remove mail unobserved, he said.
The thieves are looking for:
- Checks that they “wash” by removing the payee name and replacing it with their own.
- Credit cards that they activate and use as such as they can before they are noticed missing and canceled.
- Mail that contains personal information that they can use to establish credit with and obtain new credit cards.
Heying said residents can reduce their risk of mail theft:
- By installing locking mailboxes or by using a post office box if they often send and receive valuable material.
- Make note of suspicious persons or vehicles in their neighborhood and report them to their law enforcement agency. (Investigators often make good cases based upon a license plate number taken down by an observant citizen.)
- Opting-out of solicitation lists from financial companies to reduce unwanted mail containing their personal information.
- Converting their credit card and bank statements to an electronic version – your inbox is safer than your mailbox.
- Using electronic deposit whenever possible instead of receiving checks.
- Remembering to always shred any material with identifying information – including credit card offers.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has resources for preventing identity theft here.