In the early hours of June 24, thieves  forced entry into the Lakebay Post Office, stealing mail and packages and leaving security-minded post office box holders wondering what comes next.

The Lakebay Post Office located on the corner of KP Highway North and Herron Road NW was burglarized June 24. Access to post office boxes was temporarily restricted to business hours, frustrating some customers accustomed to retrieving their mail after hours.

“Someone broke through the interior door of the Lakebay post office and gained access to the mail in the back and made off with an undetermined number of parcels and letters,” USPS Regional Spokesperson Ernie Swanson said by phone from Seattle.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office are conducting an investigation to determine who did it and take appropriate action, he said. “Some of the mail was found in the parking lot and the assumption is that he, she or they must have been frightened or startled or something, took off and left some of the mail behind.”

“We really don’t have an estimate of how many pieces were involved,” Swanson said. The Lakebay postmaster, according to Swanson, said determining the amount of mail involved is hampered by the fact that some people rent boxes but only check them periodically.

Some local residents affected by mail theft on the Key Peninsula are fed up.

For Koko Pipkin, having mail stolen from the Lakebay Post Office, including a new debit card, was frustrating and time-consuming. “It was not what I needed,” she said.

The fact that it happened while she was laid up in bed after surgery was tough. To add insult to injury, Pipkin had begun sending and receiving mail through the post office after having been the victim of mail theft from her street box. She still doesn’t know if anything other than her debit card was stolen.

Anna Downen had sent out both checks and packages through the Lakebay Post Office hours before the break-in. She panicked when she heard the news, but soon received confirmation that all of her outgoing mail had arrived at its destination.

Wauna resident Christie Donaldson is tired of being a victim of mail theft. “We have had lots of stolen mail issues over the past few years. After finding discarded envelopes and empty birthday cards along our driveway we purchased a locking mailbox, as did our neighbors,” Donaldson said. But even a locking mailbox wasn’t enough. “The thieves used a screwdriver to pry open the door and steal our mail, also breaking our new ‘security’ mailbox,” she said.“We have yet to find a solution that works for us.”

Some details of the case are similar to a recent burglary at the Olalla Post Office on April 18, 2019. In that case, someone broke in through a secured window and stole parcels. Within days U.S. Postal Inspection Service offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of responsible parties.

U.S. Postal Inspector Anna Weller said she reassures post office patrons that despite the two recent local burglaries, their mail is safe in the post office and thefts are rare. According to the USPS, in 2018 postal inspectors reported a 78 percent conviction rate with 5,969 arrests and 4,648 convictions related to postal crimes, primarily those involving mail theft, mail fraud and prohibited mailings.

Anyone with information about the burglary of the Lakebay Post Office, or reporting mail theft, is asked to contact the USPS at 1-877-876-2455.

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