GLENEDEN BEACH — A tiny U.S. Post Office that serves 4,000 residents of a beachside resort community was ravaged by a pair of burglars early Thursday morning, Aug. 19.
More than 100 post office boxes were pried open with an unknown amount of mail stolen, reported postal clerk Zeke Olsen, who discovered the burglary when he arrived at work at 5:30 a.m. Post office box doors were ajar and mail scattered across the floors of the lobby, which until today remained open 24 hours. Due to repeated burglaries, including previous damages to the ATM machine (since removed) and a safe inside the post office work area, the lobby will now close from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Boxes were quickly repaired. By midmorning on Thursday a U.S.P.O. field maintenance specialist out of Salem, Alissa Gretema, was replacing damaged locks. New keys are available for boxholders at the post office front desk, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“You can see where they used maybe a screwdriver or a bar to leverage the doors open,” Gretema said, pointing to scratches left on the metal boxes. “At least it’s not so damaged we lost the boxes, too.”
Olsen said the burglars were caught on video security cameras from a nearby business at approximately 1:30 a.m. The video, which has been turned over to the Lincoln Co. Sheriff’s Office, depicted two white males, one mustachioed, of medium build, “thirty-ish,” in tee-shirts and jeans. The video captured a late model car but whether or not the license plate was legible is not known.
“They didn’t wear face masks, so you can see them and their tattoos clearly,” Olsen remarked. “Postal inspectors are on their way, I’ve been told. They’re scary dudes who take these federal crimes seriously.”
Why would burglars risk a stretch in federal prison for boring P.O. boxes full of statements and free offers? A postal worker at a nearby post office said more than credit card pitches and utility bills are to be found. “People often receive and send cash and valuables, including precious metal bars and coins,” said the official.
According to the latest annual report of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, an agency with 1,300 armed federal lawmen based in major cities around the U.S. including Portland, there were 202 similar burglaries of post offices in 2020, 140 robberies, 631 assaults and two murders of deliverymen. The U.S. mail is also a conduit for illegal drugs. In 2020, postal inspectors made 2,250 arrests for drug trafficking, with 1,613 convictions and the seizure of 124,000 pounds of narcotics.
The book is often thrown at postal thieves. One recent case of mail theft landed a Lantana, Flor., man 12 months and a day in federal prison for stealing 39 outgoing checks from a residential mailbox. A neighbor who witnessed the theft by a landscaper Marcello Wilbon helped solve the case when she called police. In another example, Janell Russel was given 54 months in federal prison last year after getting caught trying to pass payroll checks stolen from the Hattiesburg, Miss., post office.