An alert Port Coquitlam high school teacher sent a potential mail thief scurrying back to his car empty-handed after taking his picture and telling the guy to scram.
Now, Rob Colombo is warning residents to retrieve their mail daily to make sure they don’t become victims.
Colombo told The Tri-City News he heard a car idling outside his townhouse in the Hawthorne Avenue neighbourhood at 5 a.m. Saturday and figured someone was up to no good.
“I sort of instinctively hear when vehicles stop outside our neighbourhood and wonder why,” he said.
Four years ago, the community mailbox had been hit repeatedly by thieves so he and his neighbours installed an alarm, which rings loudly when boxes are tampered with.
Colombo decided more action was needed when he saw the fellow walk up to the mailbox.
“I was tired of it and I didn’t want to listen to the alarm. So I yelled at him, I told him it wasn’t a very good idea. He was a little shocked.”
Colombo took the man’s photo and a photo of the car he was driving and phoned Coquitlam RCMP, who showed up 15 minutes later.
Colombo had hoped the photo would help identify the car but the licence plate wasn’t sharp enough in the picture. Still, Coquitlam RCMP are lauding Colombo’s efforts and are impressed with the idea of alarming the community mailbox to keep mail thieves out.
“I applaud these people taking initiative,” RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin told The Tri-City News.
And while mail thefts are down this year in Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam after some prolific offenders were arrested, information from the public is welcome.
“We still want people to call police immediately when they think they see a mail theft in progress. Good witnesses and public support are keys to a successful investigation."
McLaughlin also offers the following tips:
• Mail theft is linked to identity theft.
• Take care of your mail. Know the delivery schedule, make arrangements for mail pickup during vacations and act immediately if mail is missing or your mailbox appears to have been tampered with.
• Never leave your mail untended while you are on vacation. Have a friend or neighbour pick up your mail regularly and keep track if anything important is missing.
Colombo agrees that residents need to take steps to protect their mail.
“Nothing ever gets stolen if you empty your box every night,” he said.