Fort Worth is No. 1 in thefts from blue outdoor postal collection boxes

Fort Worth has a reputation for rodeos, art and friendly people. Today, sadly, Watchdog Nation gives Fort Worth another title.

And it hurts because Watchdog Nation is headquartered there.

Cowtown is the No. 1 city in America for thefts from blue outdoor postal collection boxes. Texas is the top state for such thefts.

That news comes courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. I requested details about mailbox thefts for 2010.

Watchdog Nation took this photo in late 2009 of a mailbox break-in outside the Haltom City, Texas post office.

Three hundred thefts from blue boxes were reported nationwide last year. Two hundred were in Texas; 34 were in California.

 

Of the 10 pages of a spreadsheet provided to me by the postal inspectors who investigate these crimes, seven pages related to Texas boxes.

Fort Worth had 45 reported thefts last year. Arlington had 28, Dallas 25, Houston 20, San Antonio 13, Grand Prairie 10 and Austin none.

Fort Worth had 1 of 7 of all mailbox thefts in the nation.

Why?

Police spokesmen in Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth declined to speculate. The area office of the postal inspectors, which does not publicly report the crimes, meaning that customers cannot figure out whether their mail might have been stolen, also declined to comment.

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A. Lee Fritschler, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Virginia, studies postal operations. When I asked him why Cowtown is No. 1, he joked, “You’re lawless down there.”

He questioned me closely about the data, then explained that there was not enough information to speculate.

He noted that only a small amount of mail is stolen from the boxes. “I’m a big critic of the way things are going, but they’re pretty good at not losing mail.”

I asked the national spokesman for the postal inspection service how much effort is put into catching the thieves.

Lawrence C. Dukes Jr. says the crimes, which inspectors call volume mail thefts, are usually conducted by organized groups. In fiscal 2010, the Fort Worth regional office reported 195 arrests and 192 convictions related to mail theft and identity theft, which is often the result of a mailbox break-in.

Of the 195 arrests, 46 arrests and 43 convictions were related to volume mail theft investigations.

I’ve learned that thieves either pry open the back of the box with a crowbar or use a fishing line and a sticky substance to remove mail.

Nationwide, Dukes says, volume mail thefts were down 12 percent from the previous year.

Not in Tarrant County, though, where I reported about 60 thefts in 2009. For 2010, I count more than 80.

Nationally, there were 213 arrests and 180 convictions of volume mail thieves. That means that about 1 in 5 volume mail thieves convicted nationally are from North Texas.

Dukes’ advice: “The safest method to mail letters is to bring your letters directly into the post office or hand them to your letter carrier. Postal customers should make every effort to mail letters before the posted collection times and avoid leaving mail in a collection box overnight or when the post office is closed.”

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