The holidays are a time for giving -- and unfortunately, a time for taking -- as has been made evident by the recent spike in mail thefts in Bear Valley Springs.
With the holidays in full swing, it's no secret, even to criminals, that gifts and other valuables are being delivered via mail. And as the number of thefts continues to rise, police are urging Bear Valley residents to utilize other carriers like UPS or FedEx -- where packages are delivered directly to residents's doorsteps -- or have their goods picked up at the post office during this time.
Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 16, nearly 30 mail thefts were reported to the Bear Valley Springs Police Department, according to Police Chief Rod Walthers.
"And those are just the ones that were reported," Walthers said, indicating the number is probably somewhat higher, and growing.
According to Walthers, the rise in mail thefts is a rather seasonal occurrence during the summer and winter months. The BVSPD calculated that between September and December alone, nearly $3,800 worth of mail was stolen.
The mail stations, which are spread throughout the valley, are all exposed and no one area is being targeted, according to Walthers.
Although no arrests have been made this month, BVSPD is currently working in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to crack down on the problem.
"It's just the nature of the beast, because we don't have locking mailboxes," he said.
Residents of Bear Valley have voted in the past to install locks on their mailboxes, but have failed to gather the necessary majority to pass any measures, he said.
Walthers said he encourages residents to keep an eye out for what might appear as suspicious activity that occurs near the mail stations.
"Just be a good witness, and be mindful when you pull up to a mailbox," he said. "Continue to have your mail sent to safe, secure locations. Hopefully the community will generate enough support that they'll move forward with locking mailboxes," he said.
Stallion Springs Police Chief Mike Grant said residents from Stallion Springs experienced similar problems until they installed locks on their mailboxes back in 2007. Since then, there hasn't been one mail theft reported to the police department, he said.
"We encourage all of the other communities to follow suit," he said.
Stallion Springs's mailboxes are set up similar to those in Bear Valley, where boxes are grouped together in mail sites spread throughout the community. In Stallion Springs, there are more than 10 mail sites, Grant said.
According to the United States Code, mail theft can result in a maximum of five years in federal prison.