Caught on camera: Katy business owners set up surveillance video to catch mail thieves

KPRC 2 Investigates repeat mail thefts + what is being done to protect mail

KPRC 2 Investigates mail theft. It is a growing crime that is costing people and businesses tens of thousands of dollars. Investigator Amy Davis has an update on a Katy case we showed you more than two months ago.

The mail theft was so bad at the Provincial Professional Park in Katy that business owners spent thousands of dollars of their own money to catch the thieves on camera... and they did. Then, the postal inspection service let them go. You can probably guess what’s happening now.

Camera catches mail thieves at work again

It’s 2:45 a.m. on October 6. Most of us are sleeping, but one guy is helping himself to the mail at this cluster of boxes at a Katy business park on Kingsland Boulevard.

KPRC 2 Investigates repeat mail theft issues in Katy. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The suspect is seen on camera taking his time, filling his bag, and then walking away. Sixteen minutes later, the thief returns to retrieve the mailbox key he used to open the boxes. This time, the camera recorded his license plate.

When business owners sent this video to the postal inspector assigned to investigate mail theft in July, they say he replied, “Report it to your local police.”

“The postal system has been exposed as an easy target. So criminals exploit easy targets. And right now, that’s the postal service. So, who suffers? It’s actually the customers, postal customers,” said Frank Albergo, U.S. Postal Police Officer’s Union President.

Frustrated with repeat mail thefts a Katy woman set up hidden cameras. After noticing a pattern, law enforcement caught thieves in the act. Now, months later, thieves are back to work in this neighborhood. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Albergo is one of the hundreds of law enforcement officers sidelined in 2020 when the postal service benched the entire force and said they only have jurisdiction on postal service property. While postal police are confined to post offices, this is happening more and more.

KPRC 2 Investigates mail theft problem in Katy. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“We had a check stolen, and therefore my bank account was compromised, so I had to change everything,” said Marlene Magnes.

Back in July, a postal inspector was sent to Houston from New York to crack down on the mail theft problem. They set up a sting and arrested the repeat thieves caught on camera. The business park tenants have a whole playlist of videos showing 19-year-old Marquice Dale and 18-year-old Jeremiah Gamez stealing mail night after night after night. They ran from police back on July 31 and were charged with unlawfully carrying a gun in a motor vehicle and evading arrest. Two and a half months later, there are still no federal mail theft charges.

Mail thieves caught in the act after business owners set up hidden cameras. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

When KPRC 2 Investigates asked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service why a spokesperson replied, “Financial investigations take time,” and, “Inspectors must gather and present evidence to a prosecutor, and then that prosecutor’s office decides whether to proceed with the case.”

“They’re making fewer arrests. The inspection service is making fewer convictions in regard to mail theft. They have no postal patrols preventing mail theft. So, what would you think is going to happen?” said Albergo.

Albergo says the postal inspection’s own numbers show arrests for mail theft decreased 49% from 2018 to 2022 even as the crime was surging. Katy business owners just want the postal inspection service to protect them and their mail from thieves.

Security moves to protect mail

The postal inspection service told KPRC 2 Investigates they are installing 12,000 high-security blue collection boxes across the country and replacing traditional locks with electronic locks on about 49,000 boxes. Albergo said this represents about 13% of the collection boxes in the country.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.