Mesa residents continually hit by mail thieves are getting some help from the federal government as part of a new initiative called Operation Mail Safe.
Approximately 750 apartment complex mailboxes in Mesa, Phoenix and Glendale have been modified to prevent break-ins, said Karl Grigel, U.S. postmaster for Phoenix. Mesa residents eventually will see specially constructed cluster boxes in their neighborhoods.
Two hundred of the $2,000 cluster boxes have been installed in Glendale and Phoenix, Grigel said.
"They are like vaults," Grigel said. "They are made of a much heavier metal with heavier locks, and they can’t be pried open."
Operation Mail Safe is a federal, state and local initiative designed to cut down on mail theft in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
Announcing the initiative Tuesday, Paul Charlton, U.S. attorney for Arizona, said mail theft is a huge problem in the state.
"Arizona is No. 1 in mail theft, and it’s because we have an extraordinary number of methamphetamine addicts living in the metropolitan Phoenix area, and they’ve got to find a way to support their habit. . . . They are persistent, and they will continually return to where they believe they can obtain your mail," Charlton said.
Charlton said thieves alter amounts on checks, print new checks, assume others’ identities and use the Social Security number, date of birth and address to obtain other credit cards.
Aside from ruining people’s credit, Charlton said he is concerned terrorists could steal identities to travel in and out of the United States.
Michael Casadei, one of 32 Valley postal inspectors, said his office has spent $7 million more than the national average investigating mail fraud the past three years.