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Thieves hitting rural areas





It is the season for gaily colored Christmas cards from grandparents and people in faraway places. Many of those cards might be stuffed with cash or checks to brighten the holidays.

And that's what Ellis County Undersheriff Bruce Hertel thinks is behind a recent wave of mailbox thefts perpetrated by a roving band of thieves who check to see if there's any quick cash to be had.

Once they're done, he said, they carelessly discard whatever's left on the ground at the base of the mailboxes.

Another band of would-be thieves are hitting unoccupied buildings, getting away with any scrap piece of metal they can find for sale later.

"Keep your eyes open," Hertel said of rural residents who have been targets of both crime waves.

So far, he said, there have been reports of seven mailbox thefts in the county, most of them occurring this weekend.

"It kind of looks like we may have a group or a couple of people going out and hitting mailboxes," Hertel said. "Most likely, I'm guessing, looking for cash."

That's because it's the time of year when people send money in Christmas cards.

"We've had that before," he said of the nature of the thefts.

It's actually difficult to determine what, if anything, has been taken, because most times people don't know what cards-with-cash they might be getting without checking.

Bills and other mail have been discarded at the base of the mailboxes after they've been hit.

The weekend thefts, he said, generally were to the east, between Hays and Victoria, ranging from 5 miles to the south and 5 miles to the north.

"It's still under investigation," Hertel said, and postal inspectors have been notified.

In the meantime, however, Hertel's urging rural residents to remain watchful of their surroundings and keep everything locked.

"It's just 'tis the season," he said of the increase in crimes. "I'm not trying to make light of it. It just generally increases this time of year."

Area residents, he said, are best aware of who normally is in the area and if something is amiss.

"Our best eyes out there are the people who live out there," Hertel said. "If they see something, give us a call."