Census officials are prioritizing families with children under the age of five as they search for ways to get out the word on the upcoming census forms. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Reports of thefts from mailboxes have decreased in the city by 52 percent since last year, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

In 2017, 292 thefts were reported. So far in 2018, there have been 141. Over the past several years, San Antonio residents have seen criminals target the cluster mailboxes used in newer housing developments.

McManus said because mail theft is a federal crime, it does not fall under the San Antonio Police Department’s jurisdiction. SAPD can investigate mail theft as “criminal mischief” if thieves damage mailboxes. The police department also works with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to investigate financial crimes if break-ins result in fraud and credit card abuse. McManus said authorities have made arrests in mail theft cases, but did not provide details.

“Right now we don’t investigate mail theft,” McManus said. “The postal inspector does.”

Therefore, the City should not create another task force on mail theft, McManus said. The police department already serves on two task forces responsible for investigating crimes associated with mail theft.

McManus said he would support any legislation in the upcoming session to make mail theft a state felony. State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) introduced legislation last session that made mail theft a state offense.

McManus added that the postal inspector found that many of the cluster mailboxes neighborhoods use are flimsy and can be easily ripped open. McManus suggested installing video cameras around mailboxes as a deterrent, as well as strengthening the mailboxes.

“You want to make it as difficult as you can for someone to have unfettered access to your mailbox as you can,” he said. “We want to harden the target, if you will – [better] lighting, no shrubberies, sturdier mailboxes.”

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) said after the cluster mailbox by his house was broken into, his neighborhood association installed a solar-powered light with a motion sensor.

“We haven’t had a break-in since then,” he said.

Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh said the police already provide neighborhoods with guidance when it comes to protecting their mail, but will continue to help doing so.

“We’re coming back [to the Public Safety Committee] in January with recommendations,” Walsh said. “There should be a sturdier [mailbox] out there. The one they replaced in my neighborhood was seriously hardened.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.