While the mail theft problem in the High Desert doesn't seem to be getting any better, we were encouraged to learn of a new United States Postal Service program that could at least slow it a bit.

As Staff Writer Jose Quintero reported last week, the Postal Service's new Informed Delivery program shows customers their mail before it is delivered to their homes. And it's free.

By providing participating customers with the electronic means to view their mail before the postman drops it in their mailbox, Informed Delivery allows a bit more security. Customers can view their mail on a computer, tablet or smartphone, so they know what's about to be delivered. If that something is a credit card, a check or some other important item, they can arrange to meet the mailman or have a friend or relative pick it up for them if they can't.

It takes the guesswork out of when important mail is coming and gives customers a chance to take steps to ensure it isn't stolen.

Informed Delivery already is available to High Desert residents in the Victor Valley and Barstow areas. Notifications are sent to an email address used on a customer's USPS account. A link will be provided to customers if more than 10 pieces of mail are scheduled to be delivered.

According to Postal Service employees, automation makes Informed Delivery possible. Mail already is sorted by machine and when it is, a digital image of each piece of mail is captured. Now the Postal Service is just using those images for a second purpose. The scanned images are of the external markings of the address side of letter-sized mail.

Although there is at least one private company that will collect, open and send digital copies of mail to customers who pay for a monthly subscription, the new Postal Service program doesn't go that far. At least not yet. And Informed Delivery won't send notifications on Sundays or federal holidays. 

This program certainly isn't going to end mail theft, but it does provide customers with enough advance notice of important mail delivery to allow them to consider options to ensure they aren't ripped off. For that reason alone, the Postal Service deserves praise for implementing it.

To truly stop mail theft, either more law enforcement resources are going to have to be enlisted in the fight or the post office is going to have to quit delivering mail altogether. The latter certainly would do the trick, but the thought of all of us having to pick up our mail at the post office conjures visions of long lines, hot tempers and overwhelmed USPS employees.

Until a better way is devised, Informed Delivery offers at least a little extra protection and peace of mind.