LOS ANGELES - Neighbors in the West Hollywood area say their multi-unit mailboxes have been gutted by a thief or thieves.
The community is raising the red flag as more and more victims report cases of mail theft on apps like Next Door. Neighbors also fear the extent of the theft is massive. They’re concerned that a master key may have somehow fallen into the wrong hands.
"The entire neighborhood has been affected, five blocks that I know of. I went to two post offices yesterday and the people in line with me were like, ‘Oh, our mailboxes also got broken into and all this mail got stolen,’" said a resident in one of the affected buildings on Westbourne Drive, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard.
Security cameras there captured a man in baggy shorts and a hoodie casually walking into the lobby just after 4 a.m. Tuesday, opening each of the building’s 16 mailboxes, and emptying them.
She happened to pick up her mail Monday evening, but all of her neighbors who weren't awake before the mail theft ended up opening to empty mailboxes.
They quickly realized that they weren’t alone.
"A bunch of concerned neighbors were walking up and down the street from different parts of the neighborhood, giving back all the mail from all the other neighbors," she said.
It appeared as if the thief stopped to sift through the stolen mail and ditched what he didn’t want. The resident’s neighbor found an envelope that once contained a birthday card. Its contents, which likely included cash, were missing.
Neighbors on Next Door say Tuesday’s rash of thefts are just the tip of the iceberg and speculate that the only way so many buildings could be hit in such a short period of time would be if someone had access to all of the mailboxes.
Longtime West Hollywood resident Randal Newman is sure that the thief or thieves somehow has a master key.
"There’s no way to get into the mailboxes unless you have a hammer and a wedge," he said.
The United States Postal Service has not yet commented, and a representative told FOX 11 that the United States Postal Inspection Service is reviewing our request for information.
Many of the victims say they’ve filed reports with the USPS and LASD West Hollywood. FOX 11 reached out to detectives at the station but was not able to get through.