Reports of stolen mail and fraudulently cashed checks have raised concerns among Clintonville residents about security at their local post office.
At least eight reports were filed with the Columbus Division of Police between June 13 and Aug. 28 involving checks being stolen from mailboxes at the Beechwold post office, 4364 N. High St., then altered and cashed.
The checks, many written to companies, were altered to pay varying amounts -- ranging from a few hundred dollars to $1,800 -- and to be payable to several names, according to reports.
Clintonville resident Mark Blanchard, who reported a check fraudulently cashed in late July, said he notified Columbus police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, both via their online reporting tools.
"I dropped a birthday card in the mail to my son in Washington state with a check in it. It's the last thing you would think," Blanchard said.
"When I talked to him next, he said he hadn't received it," he said. "Later, I got an online alert from my bank that the check had cleared but for $1,000 and made out to a different name."
Blanchard said he received automated responses from police and the postal inspection service but no other reply. He said he reported the incident to the Beechwold Post Office and to his bank.
Officials at the Beechwold post office did not return voicemail messages for comment.
Columbus police officer Ted Stacy, the police liaison to Clintonville, affirmed that the post office conducts its own investigations into mail theft.
Erin Lindsey, postal inspector with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, also said the inspection service conducts all investigations and crime-prevention efforts for incidents at post offices.
"Any calls or information we receive involving illegal activity via the U.S Postal Service are looked into and investigated," she said. "I cannot speak to ongoing investigations as it could jeopardize the investigations."
Lindsey also said she couldn't comment on specific investigative techniques, but said numerous U.S. Postal Service facilities across the country and in the Columbus area are equipped with cameras.
Lindsey offered several tips for protecting mail from thieves. They include:
* Use the letter slots inside the post office for mail or hand it to a letter carrier.
* If you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you're expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
* Report all suspected mail theft to a postal inspector by calling 877-876-2455.