Mail, package thefts plague West Side

Sonoma police are investigating possibly-unrelated cases of stolen mail and stolen packages suggestive of a mini-crime spree.

The first case came to light Jan. 22 when a resident of the 300 block of Fifth Street West came to the police station with letters she had found in her mailbox addressed to someone else. Contents of the letters indicated they were outgoing mail, containing checks for the payment of bills, but no checks were found.

Police tracked the mail to the sender through the return address on the envelopes and learned the victim had mailed out four checks with bills that morning.

She also told police that she found mail in her mail box that had been opened and did not belong to her.

Police surmised the mail thief or thieves may have discarded stolen mail from previous thefts at each successive mailbox, and they issued a warning against the wisdom of entrusting unlocked mailboxes with un-cancelled checks since the names, addresses and account numbers can be used to forge fraudulent checks on victims’ accounts.

The following day, Jan. 23, police responded to a report of a bike-riding package thief seen stealing the contents of boxes delivered to a front porch in the 500 block of Fano Lane.

When police arrived at the scene, witnesses reported seeing a young woman in her early 20s, on an aqua-colored beach cruiser bicycle, ride up to a residence, open three boxes on the porch and stuff the contents into a backpack.

When the witnesses, who were neighbors of the victim’s house, confronted the woman, she left the bicycle and ran down the street before disappearing into the open garage of a nearby home.

When police arrived, they were directed to the open garage, where they found no sign of the young woman and no one at home. Tracing the address to a Facebook page, they determined that the residents did not have a family member matching the description of the young woman and therefore had probable cause to enter the garage.

There they found the items stolen from the nearby front porch, including two pairs of woman’s black boots and other items, valued at close to $200.

The thief appeared to have escaped out a back door of the garage, climbed a backyard fence and fled the neighborhood.

The beach cruiser bicycle was traced to a home in the 400 block of Haraszthy Drive, where it turned out to have been stolen.

The victim whose boots were stolen told police the same thing happened to her on Jan. 14, when other items were taken from her porch.

Shortly afterward, police received a call from a resident in the 300 block of Fourth Street West who reported that someone had stolen packages from their front porch.

All told, police tallied three probable victims of the front porch thief. Their advice: try to have packages delivered when someone is home, or have them delivered at work. And never leave a bicycle unlocked in plain sight, even at home.

Police are continuing the investigation.