A 23-year-old woman was arrested Monday after allegedly stealing mail in a northeast Olympia neighborhood, according to the Olympia Police Department.
Serina Nevalasca was arrested on suspicion of three felonies, including mail theft, second-degree possession of stolen property and possession of instruments of financial fraud. She appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on Tuesday. Judge Anne Hirsch allowed her to be released on her personal recognizance.
Lt. Paul Lower said the arrest was made thanks to a group of good Samaritans who saw a woman walking down their street near Sleater-Kinney Road, opening mailboxes and taking the contents.
“Neighbors were keeping an eye out, and they saw someone who isn’t normally in the area,” Lower said. “They did a great job.”
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A group of about six people confronted Nevalasca, asking her about the mail she had taken. She ran and the neighbors chased her, Lower said.
When police arrived, Nevalasca was sitting in a chair, surrounded by the group of neighbors. Officers searched her backpack and found a stack of mail.
They also found a file folder, with different compartments labeled with different neighborhoods.
“She had checks from those different neighborhoods in the different compartments,” Lower said. “It was very organized.”
Nevalasca was taken to Thurston County Jail.
Lower said officers spent much of Tuesday returning mail and checks to their owners. Luckily, he said, checks and mail always have the owners’ addresses printed on them.
The string of mail thefts allegedly committed by Nevalasca is just one of several Olympia mail theft cases in recent weeks. Every December, police see a surge in mail thefts, likely prompted by people mailing gifts for the holiday season.
“Usually, it’s people going from mailbox to mailbox, taking things out,” Lower said. “And you’ll also see people taking packages from porches.”
But on Monday night, police were called to an out-of-the-ordinary mail theft at a west Olympia apartment complex. Instead of prying open individual mailboxes, thieves took the whole block of mailboxes, Lower said.
“They just took the whole thing,” Lower said. “They must have thought it was easier than opening them individually at the scene.”
No one has been arrested in that case.
The best way to prevent mail thefts, Lower said, is to follow the example of the neighbors who caught Nevalasca: Keep your eyes open and report suspicious people.