Community mailboxes in Silver Valley are being targeted by thieves this holiday season.
Ron Rachul said his mailbox on Silver Valley Road has been hit twice in the past nine days – the latest being on Thursday night or Friday morning, as thieves look for everything from credit cards to Christmas gifts.
Rachul said the first time he didn’t even know that his mailbox had been hit, until he complained to Canada Post that his key wasn’t working.
Other had similar experiences.
Rachul contacted Canada Post, and got the impression such thefts are a regular occurrence.
They are, according to police.
Every other day in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, a mailbox is damaged or mail is stolen from it.
As of Nov. 23, there had been 176 reports.
This compares to about 166 reports during the same period in 2013.
Rachul said he had door-to-door mail delivery in Port Coquitlam for six years, and never had a problem. After nine months in rural Maple Ridge, he thinks community mailboxes are too easy a target for thieves.
“We shouldn’t even have those community lock boxes. I can’t stand them,” he said. “You can see the pry marks. They’re easy to pop open.”
Soon, everyone will be using community mailboxes, as Canada Post phases out door-to-door delivery at some five million homes.
By 2018, everyone will pick up their letters and parcels at a community mailbox.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which stands to lose 6,000 to 8,000 letter carriers, has launched a legal challenge of that decision.
“They’re not secure – you can break into them in eight seconds,” said Tim Armstrong, the union’s national director for the Pacific region.
“Even the new style ones are being broken into, putting the owners at risk of identity theft and theft of their personal property, like bank statements, cheques and credit cars. Mail is safest being delivered right to your house.”
He said the union’s position is that Canada Post and the service it provides were created by an act of Parliament, and that it takes an act of Parliament to effect such a major change in its service.
Armstrong said in addition to security issues, the lock boxes present problems to people who “can’t get out and about easily.”
Delta will be the first area of the Lower Mainland to lose door-to-door service. There is no timeline for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, yet.
Canada Post is trying to make the community mailboxes more secure.
“We take the security of the mail very seriously,” said Carley Smith, manager of media relations for Canada Post. “We continue to work with local authorities and we are working to replace equipment with modules that have enhanced security features. The work has helped – a number of arrests were made in recent months – but continues to be a concern for us.
“I’ve alerted local teams to investigate this latest occurrence and see what additional measures can be put in place,” she added.
Ridge Meadows RCMP says the best way to reduce these thefts is for residents to clean out their mail box on a daily basis. Most thefts from mailboxes happen in the middle of the night.
Also, police ask citizens to be vigilant in reporting suspicious people or activity around community mailboxes.
A police spokesman said new boxes have anti-theft measures that are effective, but the older boxes continue to be problematic.
RCMP and Canada Post Securities and Investigations are working on the issue. They have made some arrests, and police say “reduction measures” have been put in place.