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Our Opinion: Hands off mailboxes

In a normal year, tax season would be about to come to a close. However, in a time that includes a pandemic, we have a little extra time to file our taxes.

The IRS has extended the tax filing period into May, which means that tax refunds could be trickling in much later than normal this year.

It’s worth pointing out then that people should be keeping a close eye on your mailboxes if you don’t have direct deposit.

This time of year will have ne’er do wells poking their noses into mailboxes with the hope they can lift a quick check and be on their way.

It’s definitely good news when Austin Police Chief David McKichan tells us that APD hasn’t seen an increase of this type.

“In the past 4-6 years I think many have transitioned to direct deposit, lowering the risk of a check getting diverted in some manner,” he said in an email to the Herald. However, he did state, “Deliveries to the home have likely increased via online ordering in that time and we will see some theft cases related to those issues.”

Technology has also been helpful in keeping those kinds of crimes down and police urge that if you haven’t yet, a person should think about getting a home security system.

At the same time, though, we feel it’s also an excellent time to inform you of federal laws surrounding the tampering of mailboxes.

Essentially, tampering with a mailbox in any way is a felony. Vandalism to the box or the mail within, taking mail from a mailbox or simply putting something in a mailbox as one neighbor to another are all protected by federal laws.

Anybody who violates this law can be fined up to $250,000 and be imprisoned for up to three years for each act of vandalism.

If you have reason to believe somebody has tampered with either your mailbox or your mail, you are urged to contact authorities and report it.

If you are entertaining the idea of stealing from a mailbox, a $250,000 fine is a steep price to pay for a stolen check you may not even be able to cash.

For ways to prevent mailbox tampering, we urge you to visit https://about.usps.com/publications/pub166/pub166_v04_revision_112019_tech_012.htm.