In an effort to curb the spike of thefts from postal drop boxes around the city, Chattanooga police are urging citizens to drop off their mail inside post offices instead.
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"Starting back in the summer, we noticed an uptick of fraud cases coming in," Sgt. Kendon Massengale of the Chattanooga Police Department's robbery and fraud task force said in an email to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "These were all stemming from checks that were being cashed after they had been stolen out of the drop boxes at the post office. The suspects would wash the checks and then change the amount for a much higher amount and cash the check."
Most of the checks had been cashed via mobile banking or outside Chattanooga, he said. A high volume of stolen checks from post boxes have been from the East Brainerd Road area, followed by the Shallowford Road and Eastgate Loop post offices, Massengale added.
To curb the thefts, police have used social media to warn the public, assigned undercover officers to work on the issue and used the department's real-time intelligence cameras, he said.
"So far, there have been no arrests made," he said. "We are encouraging everyone to mail important documents through the inside of the post office."
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Department spokeswoman Sydney Hamon said in an email that police don't know the exact number of thefts that have occurred in the past six months, but it's between 50 and 100.
Those kinds of thefts were not happening last year, Hamon said.
Some of the thefts have been made with stolen mailbox keys, and while it hasn't happened in Chattanooga, in other parts of the country, some mail carriers have been held at gunpoint, Hamon said.
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Contact La Shawn Pagán at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.