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Mail Crimes Rise, Inspectors Pounce

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A spokesperson with the Richmond Police says the department has not been aware of mail theft problems in Church Hill, and that such matters fall within the purview of postal inspectors.

Clark is one of 12 postal inspectors in the metro Richmond area who investigate a wide range of mail abuse and suspected scams. Mail crimes have been a problem regionally for a decade, he says, but have worsened, oddly enough, as people have tended to dismiss mail's appeal as bait for thieves. Its appeal is great, Clark confirms.

"You put your stuff in the mailbox, put the flag up and it's a good sign to a criminal that there's a check inside," he says. One way a check is easily tampered with is by "washing" it with bleach and rewriting in the pay-to and amount spaces while keeping the signature intact.

Clark says much of the mail crime is gang-related, particularly in Church Hill. Some suspects have been identified, warrants have been obtained, and 21 cases are in some phase of state or federal prosecution. He estimates the local losses in mail theft to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Some culprits will be caught and punished soon. "We're getting ready to break a lot of cases," Clark says. Still, the trend's not likely to wane soon. Residents can never be too cautious about their mail, Clark warns, and should "take control" of it. — Brandon Walters

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