Mail thieves caught on surveillance camera in Oakland

KTVU first reported a week ago that three mail carriers have been robbed in Oakland and Berkeley, plus one was a victim of attempted robbery.

Thieves stole keys from the carriers that are used to open mailboxes.

Now, we've learned that one of those keys may have been used to break into 24 mailboxes in one apartment building in Oakland's Lake Merritt neighborhood early this week.

Kevin Harrington, the property manager, shared with KTVU surveillance videos of a mail theft that happened Tuesday around 2:40 a.m.

One video shows a man wearing a face covering casually walk up to a bank of mailboxes in the lobby.

He uses a key to unlock  the panel, removes items and places them in a backpack.

One of the 24 mailboxes broken into belongs to tenant Cheryl Cheeks, "I have to check my packages and see what I've ordered and what's not here."  

"We're getting hit left and right. They have a master key from the post office," said the apartment building's property manager Kevin Harrington and that this type of mail theft has escalated during the pandemic.

"It's quadrupled since the stimulus checks started," said Harrington, "And that's when I started noticing the master key being used."

KTVU first reported last Friday that mail carriers were being robbed of their master keys used to open mailboxes.

"I talked to at least one of your viewers who saw the show and asked for me specifically because he saw my name and so thank you for that information," said U.S. Postal Inspector Matthew Norfleet.  

Information that he said is helping federal investigators develop leads in the  carrier robberies and mail thefts.

"People who participate in these crimes know each other and there is definitely an underground economy or black market for the keys and the mail," said Norfleet.  

In the mail theft from Tuesday, it appears that the thief may have gained access through the garage by following a tenant.

The suspect vehicle is a dark-colored SUV seen circling the block.

"It's just happening so often. It's very frustrating," said Harrington.  

"I stopped getting my bills and stuff sent here. I got a post office box down the street now because of that," said Cheeks.  

The property manager said in each case, the thieves have worn face coverings and that different people are involved.

He said other buildings in the area have also been struck by mail thieves.

The U.S. Postal Service is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to each arrest and conviction.

To report postal crimes, call 1-877-876-2455