GIG HARBOR, Wash. -- Police this week found more than 400 pieces of stolen mail on a dead end street in Gig Harbor, and detectives believe it's the work of identity thieves
Although the mail was found in Gig Harbor, the victims are from all over the region.
Inside a Gig Harbor Police garage, tabletops and shelving units are littered with stolen mail.
"We have mail here, couple hundred pieces, couple hundred more over here, all sorts of mail Christmas cards, utility bills," said Lt. Kelly Busey with Gig Harbor Police.
A police officer on routine patrol stumbled across the massive pile of mail dumped at the end of a dead end Gig Harbor road.
"We are trying to dry out as many pieces as we can to get them re-delivered," said Busey.
More than 400 pieces of mail, all of it rain soaked and every piece that looked valuable was opened and cleaned out.
"This is a biggie. These are some Christmas card envelopes that are empty, that could have contained a gift card or a check from Aunt Bessie," Busey said.
The recovered mail is just part of what police found. Some of the stolen mail was so wet, it was beyond recognition police had to destroy it.
"This is all related to id theft and probably drugs," Busey said.
Busey thinks the thieves are from Gig Harbor, but hit mailboxes in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap Counties.
"We have a big range from Ollala to Bremerton from, Edmonds and Seattle," he said.
Police think most victims are like Gig Harbor's Mark Hoppen, who had no idea his mail had been stolen until police told him.
"One thing you count on is you go to your mailbox and get your mail the thought that someone takes it away is disconcerting, yeah it is," Hoppen said.
He said all his important documents are done online, so the bad guys didn't get anything of value, but his handmade mailbox that looks like a miniature house may be getting an upgrade.
"I've never considered getting one before but I'm considering getting one now," he said.
Police will dry out that stolen mail and return it to the post office, which will redeliver it. Police advise residents to get a lock box and say it's also a good idea to occasionally run a credit check.