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[whitespace] Thieves get stamps from downtown Willow Glen's mini-post office

Willow Glen--Nearly $1,500 in merchandise has been lifted from the mini United States Post Office inside the Garden Theater over the past three months, confirms postal inspector Tom Brucklacher.

With one suspect caught, however, and a photograph of the other on video, Brucklacher hopes the stamp-stealing spree will soon end. Both thieves will be charged with burglary.

"We call it shoplifting but we're charging attempted burglary," Brucklacher said. "They didn't go in and shop and decide to just take a few things, their attempt was to burglarize. The case has been presented to the DA, and I'm waiting to get a warrant for him as we speak."

The first theft was noticed on Nov. 5 and a series of others followed. After each incident was noticed, Brucklacher retrieved the surveillance tapes from the store in hopes of identifying the thief. A few days before Christmas, inspector Brucklacher staked out the postal shop and arrested one of the main crooks.

"I took him in and questioned him and he cooperated," he said.

Now it's a matter of catching the second one, and waiting for the DA to press charges.

Clerks inside the post office, however, worry that the thefts will continue because of the shop's design and the limited number of employees. Local shoppers not only mail packages and letters over the counter, but browse for cards, cherry-colored stamps, packing materials, pens and other products displayed in a retail-type setting.

"The design of the store is like the post office of the future, where stamps are displayed in a more consumer-friendly way," Brucklacher said.

Although a cash register stands near the store's entrance to prevent against shoplifting, it is rarely manned, employees say.

"I keep bringing it up to my boss and he does nothing," said one employee who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. "I'm worried that if we keep losing money, they're going to close us down. I love this little post office."

Inspector Brucklacher agrees that manning the free-standing cash register would be the best action to prevent against further thefts. As an inspector, however, Brucklacher can only make recommendations to the postal manager.

An audit report on this post office dated Dec. 18 1997, makes the same recommendation.

"The store cash register was not being staffed," the audit states. "The position should be staffed at all times. This would be especially critical during the Christmas mailing season."
Cecily Barnes

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Web extra to the February 11-17, 1999 issue of Metro.

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