SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

Springfield Police say someone has been stealing mail here in the Ozarks.

Police say thieves hit two apartment complexes that are right down the street from one another.

According to a police report, thieves broke into various mailboxes and stole mail from at least 17 people but a postal worker says the thieves didn't stop there.

Steve Brison says he's been working this area for about three years and he says this is a first, but he says the boxes are outdated.

"You can tell by looking at the boxes these are old boxes, these are owned by the property owner they can be updated but it's a little pricy but it would be a little more secure for their tenants to have the mail a little better secured," says Postal Carrier Steve Brison.

One woman who lives at the unit on East Cherry Street says she felt "scared, violated, you know it's really a scary thing to think that they are that brazen to do it right in front of the building," says Carlota Batman.

Officials offer some tips if your mail is ever taken.

"I would contact my bank and have them look for any strange occurrences that might be coming into your account," says Judy Mills of the Better Business Bureau.

Stealing someone's mail is a federal offense.

Experts say you should always deposit your mail in a blue postal service mail collection box or mail slot at your local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier.

Security experts say to have your local post office hold your mail while you are on vacation, or away from your home for a long period of time.

Also, if you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you're expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.