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Not in the spirit

Ellis County might not be Whoville, but there appears to be a Grinch or two in the area looking to steal away Christmas.

Targets of this holiday spree are unsuspecting rural residents, whose mailboxes are being searched for cards that might contain cash. The Ellis County Sheriff's Office is investigating at least seven such thefts that took place between Hays and Victoria during the weekend. The perpetrators apparently are rifling through the mail, taking the cards and tossing the remaining mail items on the ground.

"It's just 'tis the season," said Ellis County Undersheriff Bruce Hertel. "I'm not trying to make light of it. It just generally increases this time of year."

Unless these Grinches are caught in the act, this crime is a difficult one to prevent -- let alone solve. Most people are not made aware cash is being sent by a loved one. At the same time, most people who send gifts don't call to ensure it arrived, opting instead to await a thank-you note that in these cases never will come.

Actually, there is a way to prevent this particular illegal activity from taking place. If people stopped putting cash inside envelopes, there would be no incentive for criminals to open the mailbox in the first place. Checks and money orders simply don't have the same value for an unintended recipient. They're not as exciting as a crisp 10- or 20-dollar bill, but they won't be as useful to the cad who steals your mail.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't illegal to send cash through the U.S. Postal Service. But if you don't want to become victimized by a mailbox pilferer, insure the piece of postage. There are limits depending on which class of service one uses, but most cash gifts can be insured for full value.

In the meantime, the sheriff's office could use assistance tracking down the individuals whose hearts obviously are "two sizes too small."

"Our best eyes out there are the people who live out there," Hertel said. "If they see something, give us a call."

Anybody with something to report should call (785) 625-1058. When caught, these Grinches won't be invited to carve the Roast Beast. Instead, they'll be invited to spend some time behind bars.

"The three best words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: 'Stink! Stank! Stunk!' "

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net