Mailbox theft

The package a man is accused of taking from a mailbox on Chipeta Road contained a nice set of speakers — and a hidden tracking device that led deputies right to him.

Bobby Howell of Montrose was booked into jail on suspicion of theft late Sept. 11. Montrose County Sheriff Gene Lillard said Howell also was found with other pieces of mail stuffed into his pants waistband.

Lillard did not say whether Howell is suspected of any other mail thefts, which have been plaguing residents in Montrose and Delta counties for some months.

“The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office has been having a rash of mail thefts from that area for quite some time,” Lillard said, referring to Chipeta Road.

The MCSO has created decoy packages with tracking devices — and Lillard wants those inclined to porch piracy and other mail thefts to know that when they steal, they run the risk of grabbing a tracking device that will increase the odds of them being caught.

In this instance, investigators had placed a decoy package with a GPS tracker in a mailbox on Chipeta Road. In the last few minutes of Sept. 11, dispatch alerted deputies that the package was on the move, traveling at about 2 mph north on Chipeta, then east on Main Street, south of Maple Street, to southwest First Street.

Deputies spotted a lone man walking in the area and suspected he had the package.

Lillard identified that man as Howell, who, he said, consented to be searched.

The sheriff said deputies and a sergeant found the decoy package, as well as mail that had been addressed to homes on Chipeta, Sunset Mesa and West Main Street.

Howell reportedly said he was coming from a relative’s home nearby and that he had picked up the package, hoping it contained money, because he owed someone.

He declined further statements, Lillard said.

“It was very good work by the night shift and also the investigation divisions. We intend to do more of that. Thieves, beware. We have the technology on our side right now and if it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it,” he said.

The seized mail is being photographed and deputies will attempt to have it redelivered to the rightful recipients. Additionally, the sheriff’s office is working with the U.S. Postal Service to address mail thefts. Theft or interference with the mail can be charged as a federal crime.

“We’ve had a rash of mail thefts going on. It’s concerning to us and we want it stopped,” Lillard said.

“Citizens, pick up your mail in the daylight hours and if you see anything suspicious, give the MCSO a call.”

Dispatch can be reached at 970-249-9110. Mail theft can also be reported anonymously through Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers, 970-249-8500; the P3Tips app, or P3Tips.com.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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