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Spate Of Mail Thefts Strike Montgomery County

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Thieves in Montgomery County target outgoing checks by looking for mailboxes with raised flags.
Anne Hornyak: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anneh632/4791566753/
Thieves in Montgomery County target outgoing checks by looking for mailboxes with raised flags.

Maryland police are warning residents about a series of mail thefts from homes in Montgomery County.

The thieves are taking mail from street-side mailboxes in residential areas. Police say they target mailboxes that appear to contain outgoing mail, which means residents who use the red metal flag to signal their postal carrier that they have outgoing mail are, literally, raising the flag for criminals.

"It also signals people with criminal intent that, 'hey there's a letter going out and maybe it has a check in it,'" Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks says. "They take the mail and attempt to pass the check after altering it to obtain cash."

It's an ongoing problem that is now increasing in a few areas in the county, Starks adds.

"Olney is one area in the county where there's been an uptick during the last few months of 2012," Starks says. "As recently as Jan. 2 of this year, we've had one event on Sunrise Hill Road in Deerwood, and we've had others fairly recently in Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Silver Spring."

The thieves are after checks, which they attempt to alter and cash at local banks.

Linda Kuserk lives not far from one recent mailbox robbery and heard about it through email on a neighborhood listserv.

"I am concerned, because we do put our mail in the mailbox to go out and we put the little flag up cause it's easier to leave it in the mailbox — it's convenient," Kuserk says. "It usually works fine, and it gets there quickly. I guess we'll have to think twice about that now."

Peter Wright also lives near one of the neighborhoods that was recently hit by the postal thieves.  

'Well obviously it's a surprise and it's worth some caution, so we'll think about things a little differently," Wright says. "When we do have to mail something I'll give it to my wife and she'll send it through work or we'll mail it at the post office." 

Starks says police are looking for a grey, 4-door sedan in connection with the robberies. For now, he recommends residents use the post office or a locked postal drop box for mail containing checks and other important documents.

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