By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

It may not have been a Grinch at work near Nasu Park Loop in northeast Bend, but someone tried to steal Christmas there.

When a box of stolen mail was discovered along the roadside on Christmas morning, Bend police officers recovered mail from 27 different addresses, primarily on or near Nasu Park Loop. The box was found near the intersection of Neff and Hamby roads, a short distance from where the mail was taken, said Lt. Clint Burleigh, Bend police spokesman.

He said that’s typical of mail theft cases. Perpetrators will look to quickly rifle through stolen mail to find cash, gift cards or anything else they find of value, then discard the rest.

Burleigh said he suspects package thefts are on the increase locally, though he’s not seen any figures to support that. He said Bend Police are not doing anything in particular to combat mail or package theft, though he said he’s heard of other police agencies planting packages in order to lure in — and arrest — those who steal them.

And this wasn’t the only case of Christmas mail theft this year in Deschutes County.

Last month, a La Pine man was charged with felony mail theft after a deputy with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office found 178 pieces of mail, including many Christmas packages, taken from porches and mailboxes, in the man’s home.

The holiday season presents opportunities for mail thieves, said U.S. Postal inspector Jeremy Ledder, with more cash and gift cards being mailed than at other times of year. The still-growing popularity of online shopping has created yet another opportunity, he said, with delivered packages often spending hours unguarded outside the recipient’s front door.

But Ledder said it’s difficult to track whether mail theft is increasing. Victims don’t always know that they’ve been victimized, and in the event they do know and report it to local law enforcement, local law enforcement is not required to report it to the postal service.

Although the postal service advises victims of mail theft to closely monitor bank accounts and credit reports in the weeks and months following the theft of their mail, generally speaking, mail thieves are not sophisticated criminals, Ledder said.

“The people doing this are not smart people,” he said. “They’ll take checks and gift cards and go use them at Target or whatever, and we can get video or the names they’ll put on the check. We have ways.”

Only around 2.5 percent of identity theft cases can be traced to mail theft, Ledder said, while roughly 43 percent began with an unsecured electronic transaction.

As is the case with conventional mail, package theft is a volume business, Ledder said.

“When it comes to packages it’s sort of like a mystery grab, if they steal enough packages they’ll get something of value,” he said.

The postal service advises against having packages shipped to your home if they’re liable to spend an extended period unattended on a porch or doorstep. Ledder said it’s better to have packages shipped to a workplace or a friend or neighbor who will be home at the time of the delivery.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,