Niels Jensen is worried about identity theft because his mailbox

Niels Jensen is worried about identity theft because his mailbox

Mail theft on the rise

Community boxes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows hit 44 times since January

For the Jensens, the endless cycle of break-ins are a blot on their beautiful neighbourhood.

Situated a few blocks from the Fraser River, Osprey Village is idyllic, save for the occasional scruffy guy on a mountain bike and repeatedly stolen mail.

“It’s the worst spot ever,” says Niels Jensen, pointing to the Canada Post community mailbox that sits behind a fence and faces a secluded wooded area at the corner of Bonson Road and Fraser Way.

In the past six years they’ve lived in Osprey Village, the mail box has been hit at least seven times.

The Jensens and many of their neighbours believe the two-block stretch that’s home to two mail boxes is a hot spot of criminal activity, with the latest break-in happening over the Easter long weekend – the second in a span of two weeks.

“We’ve asked [Canada Post] to move the mailbox, but they don’t listen,” said Jensen, a little frustrated because he’s requested the mailbox relocation for six years.

“This is a nice neighbourhood, but these types of things are unsettling.”

It’s not only the Jensens and their neighbours who are noticing the spike in mail thefts.

Ridge Meadows RCMP statistics back the residents’ suspicions.

From January to March, there have been 44 break-ins at community mailboxes in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, compared to just seven in the same period last year.

About 20 of the break-ins took place in Pitt Meadows.

The repeated thefts have forced the Jensens and several other neighbours to rent mailboxes at Shopper’s Drug Mart.

Other residents of Osprey Village are calling for the city to install a security camera and step up police patrols.

And it’s not just mail theft, they also have concerns about residential break-ins, car theft, noise and drunk people in the area in the wee hours of night.

“The mail theft is just the tip of the iceberg,” said one resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, claiming the last time he spoke out, his home was vandalized and truck broken into.

“Try to sleep at night, it’s just so loud.”

“It’s just so scary,” said Corinne, another resident who fears identity theft.

“Just where the box is located, it’s so easy to break in and take the mail.”

Several months ago, RCMP arrested a man suspected of stealing mail. He was charged with fraud, but has since been released from custody.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters said after his release, the thefts spiked again.

“It’s ongoing for RCMP,” added Walters, who is being inundated with emails from angry residents.

“It’s frustrating for us because Canada Post is an arms-length entity of the federal government and we don’t have a say about where they place their mail boxes.”

Walters has been forwarding the neighbourhood complaints to Canada Post almost daily. She’s also contacted the local Member of Parliament.

She points to a mailbox at the other end of Bonson Road in the Somerset subdivision that was relocated after repeated break-ins. Since it was moved to a safer, more visible location near a school, it hasn’t been targeted.

“There is no consistently with Canada Post,” said Walters.

“I certainly sympathize with the residents. I too am a victim of mail theft.”

As their frustration mounts, some residents have stopped calling police to report petty crime, such as their patio furniture being stolen or their homes being egged.

Both RCMP and Walters suggest that approach is counter-productive.

“I know they get frustrated,” said Walters. “But the RCMP aren’t mind readers. If these people aren’t going to call in, how can we do anything?”

Ridge Meadows RCMP confirmed investigators have their eye on a few suspects.

“We have been working with Canada Post to coordinate efforts to prevent and identify the person or persons responsible,” said Insp. Dave Fleugel.

Auxiliary police officers are targeting neighbourhoods being hit by mail theft to offer residents crime prevention tips. They are planning a similar crime prevention blitz in Osprey Village. Police are also encouraging residents to join Block Watch, which is already in place in Osprey Village. Thus far, only 53 homes have signed up.

Canada Post, meanwhile, is working to reinforce all the 20,126 community mailboxes in B.C. with new sturdy locks and anti-pry bars.

Despite a recent spike in mail theft in Metro Vancouver, Canada Post maintains the mailboxes are safe.

“We have thousands of these across Canada and the majority of them have never been touched,” said Canada Post spokesman John Caines.

As for moving the mailboxes along Bonson Road to a safer location in Osprey Village, Caines explained Canada Post prefers to locate them at a distance of 400 metres from homes.

“We try not to move them further,” he said. “We try to keep them as close to the homes as possible.”

Have Your Say

Pitt Meadows Community Policing Committee hosts its next meeting at the South Bonson Community Centre on Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 604-465-2402 or visit the community policing station near city hall. For tips on preventing mail theft, visit Ridge Meadows RCMP.