By Naomi Klouda
A man caught allegedly rifling through mailboxes on West Hill was arrested on Dec. 23, a move that wary residents fed up with mailbox vandalism were glad to hear.
Lucky Daniel Ackerman, 35, was reportedly found in a truck with a pair of brand new pants and an invoice taken from a nearby mailbox two days before Christmas.
Alaska State Trooper Daniel Brom responded to a report of an intoxicated man walking down the road on Diamond Ridge near Bidarki Road just before midnight. He followed the snowy footprints to the West Hill Road where they crossed over to West Wood Road. The footprints stopped at the mail boxes and then led away from them.
The trooper continued to follow the fresh footprints in the snowy roadway. Those led to a second set of mailboxes on Goldberry Court, and then to another cluster of boxes on Highland Road. A nearby truck covered in snow was at the end of the footprints, where the trooper contacted Ackerman.
“I observed Lucky to be clutching what appeared to be a freshly pressed pair of blue BDU (military style) pants. In between the folds of the pants, I observed a piece of paper to be an invoice with a name other than Ackerman’s on it,” the trooper wrote in an affidavit. The pants and the mailing address matched a Highland Road address.
Later, Ackerman reportedly admitted the pants came from a nearby mailbox. Mail scattered around the area listed addresses on West Hill.
Ackerman was arrested and charged with third-degree theft and criminal trespass in the second degree. While under arrest, officers asked if Ackerman possessed any hidden narcotics. He reportedly said he did not, but at the jail, officers found a hypodermic needle in a pocket and a sandwich baggie of approximately two grams of marijuana. The new charge was added of promoting contraband.
Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Jeremy Stone advises residents who didn’t receive certain parcels or cards in the mail to notify the U.S. Postal Inspector. Under federal laws, people suspected of stealing mail can be charged through the Postal Service, but state law also provide for prosecution through theft laws. In this case, the suspect was charged by the state. Troopers will notify the postal service to check if that agency wants to press additional charges, he said.
The trooper on duty Dec. 23 likely was familiar with the mailbox problems experienced by residents on the bluff and knew what to look for, Stone said. Clusters of old-fashioned, flip-mouthed mailboxes dot the residential areas from Diamond Ridge to Skyline. People frequently complain of vandalism, and decide instead to rent boxes at the Homer Post Office, to the cost of nearly $400 a year.
“We do know it is an issue,” Stone said. “And for that reason, officers keep an eye out for suspicious activities near mailboxes. The best resource, however, is the neighbors. If we go by and a car is pulled up to the mailboxes, it doesn’t mean anything to us because we don’t know them. But for people who live there, it’s a good idea to get that license plate and share that information.”
Stone said it’s a problem all over Alaska in rural neighborhoods during long dark nights. He encourages people to get together as neighbors and ask the post office for steel metal mailboxes that stack and lock, like many in the town proper.
The problem of individuals rifling through mail crops up at certain times of the year; most often at Christmas when people are awaiting gifts, orders and sometimes cash or checks in cards.
“What we find are theft rings and a lot have a drug nexus to them. They will steal credit cards, information and make fake ID cards with your name on it. They’ll activate a card before you notice it,” Stone said.
Stone said it’s important to check your mail regularly in the exposed boxes.
“There’s lots of ways citizens can help to protect themselves,” he said. “In my years as an officer, I have never investigated a theft of the steel metal boxes.”
Anyone in the area described in the Dec. 23 incident who believes their mail may have been stolen, can contact the post office. Every attempt was made to collect mail scattered in the area.
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