Mailboxes outside Court Street post office. / Bob Sprague photoAvoid mailboxes outside Court Street Post Office, police chief advises. / Bob Sprague photo

UPDATED Feb. 17: A mail thief in Weston on Sunday, Feb. 12, led police on a high-speed chase to Arlington and Medford, where he escaped. Hours later, at 2 a.m. Monday, the thief broke into the boxes in front of the Court Street post office in Arlington, taking an undetermined amount of mail.

That hit is only the latest this winter at boxes that were the target of thieves last year, as YourArlington documented in November

In the new year, at least 10 reports have been filed with Arlington police signaling missing or altered checks.

In cases documented last fall, YourArlington reported email exchanges with four mail-theft victims. Two of those and some of the current 10 cases might have involved "washing" a stolen check -- that is, changing the face amount and recipient before cashing it.

Checking-washing fraud emerged to greater prominence during the start of the pandemic; cases have been reported in Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Deposit mail inside for now


Danielle Schrage, postal inspector and public-information officer for U.S. Postal Service's Boston division, described what such inspectors do.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement, crime prevention and security arm of the Postal Service. We work to ensure America’s confidence in the U.S. mail, enforcing more than 200 federal laws, investigating crimes affecting customers, the U.S. mail or the postal system.”

They investigate postal-related crimes, such as mail fraud and theft, violent crimes against postal employees, revenue fraud, dangerous mail, illegal drugs in the mail and child exploitation conducted by mail. The U.S. Postal Service delivers almost 130 billion pieces of mail a year to more than 163 million customers.

Postal inspectors are required to safeguard all of it — including the people who move it and the customers who use it. Individuals and businesses can take these steps to protect their mail:

– Do not let incoming or outgoing mail sit in your mailbox. Remove it daily.

Deposit outgoing mail inside the post office. Never send cash or coins through the mail. Use checks or money orders. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that are more difficult to alter.

Customers can submit online complaint at or call 877-867-2455.

The Arlington Police Department Criminal Investigation Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and law enforcement partners from around the region are investigating the Arlington theft as well as several similar thefts that have occurred at the same location and at locations around the region. Police continue to investigate connections between the thefts, a Feb. 13 news release from John Guilfoil Public Relations said.

Arlington police recommend that, for the time being, residents take their mail into a post office instead of leaving it in blue U.S. Postal Service mailboxes, the release said.

"Thefts from Postal Service mailboxes are an ongoing issue that we have been investigating with law enforcement partners for some time now, and as we see increasing numbers of such thefts around the region, we recommend postal service customers take precautions," Chief Julie Flaherty said in the release. "Anyone who left a check in the mailbox at 10 Court Street over the weekend should cancel the check and notify their bank immediately.", citing Facebook, reported that Weston police said a mailbox on Colpitts Road was “broken into once again” Sunday night. Officers caught sight of the suspects at one point, but they managed to get away, the website reported.

Officers “were in the area and immediately located the suspect vehicle, which evaded the police at high, unsafe speeds and was not able to be stopped,” police said. “The vehicle then went directly to a post office in Arlington, where they broke into that mailbox as well and subsequently were pursued by Arlington Police into Medford, when the suspects got away again.”

After reporting about stolen mail in November, YourArlington has kept track of the daily police logs it receives. After a lull earlier in the holidays, reports of stolen and altered checks picked up again on New Year's Eve.

10 cases in new year

Here is a list of 10 Arlington mail-theft cases in the new year. These reports are highly redacted, and so details are sparse. In reports in which ages are provided, those reporting them are older than 65, except for one.

In all cases, the specific value lost is blacked out. The possible charge for the offense involved provides clues about value.

  • On Feb. 13, at nearly 2 a.m., Arlington police reported following a car on Court Street, which sped off at high speed to Water Street. Dispatch issued a "be on the alert," and the car was seen on Mystic Valley Parkway before eluding officers.
  • On Feb. 8, a female Arlington resident said she mailed a group of bills Dec. 31 from the outdoor postal box in front of 10 Court St. The details are redacted, but description says "altered checking account" (larceny by check, over $1,200).
  • On Feb. 7, a male town resident reported he mailed two checks at the box in front of 10 Court sometime after New Year's Eve. The report says, "He was notified by his bank ..." and the rest is redacted (larceny by check, over $250).
  • On Feb. 6, a female Arlington resident, who said she frequently sends checks at 10 Court St., reported money missing from Jan. 1 (larceny by check, over $1,200).
  • The same day, a female town resident mailed several checks sometime after New Year's Eve, and "none of the checks reached their destination" (larceny by check, over $250).
  • On Feb. 3, a male Woburn resident reported he mailed several checks Jan. 3 and saw money was missing (larceny by check, over $1,200).
  • On Jan. 30, a male town resident reported two checks put in the outside Court Street boxes sometime after Jan. 2. The name and amount on one of the checks had been changed and cashed (larceny by check, over $250).
  • On Jan. 24, a male town resident reported that several checks placed in the outside Court Street boxes sometime after Jan. 2 were cashed by someone else (larceny by check, over $250).
  • On Jan. 13, an Arlington woman told police she had mailed several checks on New Year's Eve weekend, and "the checks did not arrive at their destination" (larceny by check, over $1,200).
  • On Jan. 11, a Winchester woman reported that she had mailed several checks on Dec. 31, and her bank had told her the checks had been cashed with the name and the amount on the check changed (larceny by check, over $1,200). 

Nov. 6, 2022: Outside Court St. Post Office, who's got mail? Thieves might

This news summary was published Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, based on information from a news release by Robert Mills of John Guilfoil Public Relations, and YourArlington's archives and reporting. It was updated Feb. 17 with information from a Feb. 13 police report.