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Oildale residents on high alert after string of mail thefts

Community mailbox emptied by thieves on the corner of Rian Noelle Court and High Meadow Way in Oildale, Calif., on Monday, Oct.16, 2017. (Photo: John Sutton)

A community mailbox in Oildale has been a target for thieves.

Residents who live on Rian Noelle Court say their mail has been stolen about six times this year.

Gary Cowan, who has lived in the quiet cul-de-sac for 16 years, turned to law enforcement on Monday after seeing his mailbox emptied out.

"They were all open. There was no mail, no nothing in them," said Cowan. "I called the Kern County Sheriff's department."

Other neighbors say they are fed up with people stealing their belongings.

"It's just some dirtbag that doesn't have anything better to do than prowl at 4 in the morning and steal people's mail instead of getting a job," said David Bentley, a resident of the neighborhood.

Postal inspectors say thieves are looking to get their hands on any personal information like credit cards and checks.

Officials say cases of mail theft are on the rise in Kern County. These thieves are looking for older mailboxes like the one on Rian Noelle Court to break into because they have been able to break in and make a master key that opens multiple boxes.

Mail theft is a federal crime, with a potential penalty of up to five years in federal prison. Making and using counterfeit keys is a separate federal offense with a potential penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.

Jeff Fitch, who is a United States Postal Inspector, says they are working to replace the older mailboxes throughout Kern County with newer ones. But for now, neighbors are asked to remain vigilant.

To report a mail theft, call the 24-hour dispatch line (877)876-2455.

U.S Postal inspectors say there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in any mail theft case.

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