SAN LEANDRO (KPIX 5) — Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies were able to return more than 500 packages and letters to residents in unincorporated San Leandro after three people were caught Sunday morning allegedly going house to house stealing items out of mailboxes.

KPIX 5 talked with one victim who said his home surveillance video captured the thieves in action.

The video showed a woman carrying an armful of mail, pulling more out of mailboxes on Howe Drive in unincorporated San Leandro at around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Area resident Erick Barron told KPIX that many of his neighbors left for the holidays. He saw mailboxes along the street overflowing with letters and said it seemed like a crime of opportunity.

“It did seem like an opportune time,” said Barron, who was also victimized by the thieves. “They knew they were out of town and possibly knew they could snag a couple of packages or something.”

Barron said he and his neighbors have been targets of mail theft in the past, so a few weeks ago, and installed a new security camera near the street.

“We set up a camera right in front of the mailbox, kind of to cover the cars and the mail,” explained Barron.

But what Barron saw on the surveillance video early Sunday morning surprised him. he said he could see the thieves going to every mailbox at every house on the street.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputies said someone in the neighborhood saw what was happening and called 911. The officers stopped a vehicle and arrested three people with more than 500 pieces of stolen mail as well as burglary tools and drug paraphernalia.

“Property crime is really skyrocketing right now. It’s an issue in every city in every community here in the Bay Area,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

In unincorporated Alameda County, property crimes are up 27% this year over last. Mail theft has become a big issue, especially during the pandemic.

“Loved ones are sending gift cards, money, checks to family members. In addition we have EDD and unemployment benefits that come through the mail,” said Kelly.

“Besides like setting up a 24/7 patrol, there’s nothing really that you can do to prevent this,” said Barron. “It’s an act of opportunity. They see the opportunity, they’re going to do it.”

The three suspects were arrested for possession of burglary tools, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft charges. One suspect was wanted on an unrelated felony warrant.

Authorities said one way to safeguard your mail is to have anything valuable sent to a post office box or require a signature for delivery.