Citizen report leads to mail theft arrests

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An alert from a vigilant Birch Bay resident led to sheriff’s office deputies arresting two individuals for mail theft on August 21.

Dean Haskins was standing outside his cabin on Terrill Drive inspecting where he could build another residence on the property when he noticed an unfamiliar car pulling up to a row of nearby mailboxes. It was 10:30 p.m. at night and Haskins watched the blue Pontiac he’d never seen before inch along the street.

“As they kept doing that, I realized this doesn’t look normal but as they slowly drove off, I noticed the mailboxes were open,” Haskins said.

Haskins said he’s been more vigilant for his Canadian neighbors since they haven’t been able to access their properties during the U.S./Canada border closure. With a spite for thievery, Haskins said he jumped into his car and started following the car.

He followed the car as it stopped at another 10 mailboxes on the 7500 block of Morrison Drive and he could see a hand exiting the passenger window and opening mailboxes. Determined to get better identification, Haskins followed the car as it pulled into a house he knew was owned by Canadians and took photos of the license plate. The driver soon caught on that Haskins was following them and started driving what Haskins estimated was 60 mph on Birch Bay Drive, which is when Haskins stopped following them.

“I despise property and mail crime, so I had no fear,” Haskins said. “I just don’t like people being taken advantage of, especially looking at the mailboxes next to mine.”

Responding to Haskins’ call, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputies conducted a traffic stop on the blue Pontiac at 11:30 p.m. in the 4700 block of Alderson Road, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.

The driver, 37-year-old Sarah Brown, allowed deputies to search the vehicle, where they found 89 pieces of mail from 49 Whatcom County addresses. Brown admitted to stealing the mail and said her passenger, 28-year-old Clarissa Judith Miranda, helped her steal the mail.

Deputies also found a small, black case with 7 grams of methamphetamine in the vehicle. Brown admitted to using and selling methamphetamine, according to court records. 

Haskins identified the vehicle. Deputies booked Brown into Whatcom County Jail for eight counts of mail theft and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Miranda was booked into jail for eight counts of mail theft.

WCSO spokesperson Deb Slater said in an email to The Northern Light that WCSO recovered checks, credit and debit cards, gift cards, bank statements and identification cards in the stolen mail. WCSO is unable to put a value on the theft, Slater said.

“The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office advises never leaving outgoing mail in the mailbox. It should always be dropped into an official USPS receptacle or post office,” Slater said. “For incoming mail, a mailbox that can lock is advisable, but still not 100 percent safe. To ensure your mail and packages will be delivered safely, rent a PO box from your local mail center.”

WCSO does not have a number of mail thefts in the Birch Bay area, but Slater said WCSO responded to 59 reports of mail theft in Whatcom County in 2020 and 38 reports so far in 2021.

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