JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. — Like many of his neighbors in the Kensington Grove subdivision, Corey Stewart woke up Monday morning to find nearby mailboxes hanging open.
“It was the whole street,” Steward said. “That’s 25 houses.”
As the morning progressed, it became clear that Stewart’s street was just one area targeted by a slow-rolling thief in a dark colored car. Based on reports and evidence gathered so far, investigators believe the thief opened and looked in hundreds of mailboxes in the Kensington Grove, Hickory Stick, Bradford Place and Waters Edge subdivisions.
“Pretty brazen, really,” said Johnson County Sheriff’s Detective Damian Katt. “Don’t generally see somebody going through multiple neighborhoods in one evening.”
Several home security cameras captured the thief driving a black or dark blue Honda from mailbox to mailbox. One video also showed the person stopping at a car parked in the street before leaving the unlocked car’s door open. Based on the video, investigators think the thief was able to steal from mailboxes and about 15 cars without getting out of their own car.
About a dozen residents reported items missing from their mailboxes, and some residents reported their discarded mail was found down the street from their homes.
It’s believed the thefts occurred in the overnight hours between Sunday night and Monday morning. The mailboxes and unlocked car doors were left open, apparently in an effort to stay quiet, Katt said.
“Because when they make noise, that’s the end of their run in that neighborhood,” Katt said.
One woman who asked not to be named had a small package stolen from her mailbox but still counted herself lucky. Her stimulus check had arrived the day before, so the thief missed it by one day.
“Luckily, we got our stimulus check on Saturday, and we knew it was coming, so we got it Saturday, expecting it,” the woman said. “But it’s nerve wracking to know that we can’t just trust stuff in our mailbox.”
“That’s crazy. You’d think you’d have something better to do with your time than go through people’s mail,” said Bradford Place resident Bob Herbst. “We don’t have a lot of crime, so yeah that’s a little disconcerting.”
So far, none of the videos shared by neighbors gives a clear enough look to identify a license plate or a specific description of the driver. That person is seen leaning out the driver’s side window, opening mailboxes up and down neighborhood streets.
“One of our concerns would be like the stimulus checks are out right now,” Katt said.
While many people no longer rely on “snail mail” for daily transactions in favor of online banking and other transactions, investigators say smart crooks can sometimes make use of “junk mail.” A promotional credit card offer could be used to open a new line of credit in a theft victim’s name.
Theft victims are encouraged to freeze their credit and report the crime to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. Others are encouraged to sign up for the U.S. Postal Service’s “Informed Delivery” Service, which tells you what should be arriving in your mailbox each day. Checking those daily emails can help you determine if any mailed items are missing from your mailbox.
In the meantime, Katt said his department is stepping up neighborhood patrols.
“We do have additional unmarked cars and marked cars out in the evening right now,” he said.