While Canada Post is busy transitioning neighbourhoods to community mailboxes, the West Shore RCMP has been preoccupied investigating a string break-ins and thefts from existing multi-unit mailboxes in Langford and Highlands.
Between the end of August and late September, seven incidents of community mailboxes being broken into and the contents stolen.
According to West Shore RCMP, the mailboxes were forced open in overnight break-ins. Police are investigating the possibility that the incidents are related due to their proximity to each other.
While stolen mail is a serious issue, detachment spokesperson Const. Alex Berube said police are also looking into possible identity theft. “There’s always a risk,” he said.
Berube said identity theft techniques often include “dumpster diving” and mail theft. The goal of these acts is to obtain key pieces of personal information about a potential victim, found on such items as bank or credit card statements.
RCMP are encouraging residents to pick up their mail daily and not leave anything inside the boxes overnight.
Anita Brunckhurst’s mother was a victim of one of these break-ins. Brunckhurst picks up her mother’s mail from the community mailbox near Humpback and Irwin roads in Langford. It was broken into at the end of August and it took Canada Post about a month to replace the box, she said.
“The whole front swung open like a door, you could see everything,” she said, noting it looked like the box had been pried open with a crowbar.
Brunckhurst said identity theft was their biggest concern.
“I still wonder if mail is missing,” she said, adding they had no way of knowing what might have been taken.
She said Canada Post told her they had held her mother’s mail from the time the break-in was reported, but when she went to pick it up, there only seemed to be about a day’s worth. “Mom usually receives a lot more mail than that,” Brunckhurst said.
She was also disappointed with the new box, which was installed at the same location even though residents wanted it moved to a safer area. “The metal doesn’t feel as thick,” she said, adding that it also featured larger compartments for packages, making it more appealing to thieves. “I check frequently now just to make sure the box is empty.” She said she never knows when the mail will be dropped off as the times often fluctuate.
One of her other concerns was how hard it was to track down someone at Canada Post to notify them. “I checked a number of phone books and I was surprised.” Brunckhurst said she thought the number would have been included with other government services, but couldn’t find it anywhere. “It is alarming; we have a lot more community boxes going in.”
“The cutbacks are really harming basic service,” she said, but she didn’t blame local employees. “I believe the post office employees are trying really hard … I don’t think they can spread themselves as thin as expected.”
Anick Losier, a spokesperson for Canada Post, said in an emailed statement that criminals are determined regardless of the target and Canada Post is committed to doing everything possible to support police in their efforts to catch those individuals.
Losier couldn’t go into specifics on what actions Canada Post was taking to deter and stop property crimes due to the fact that exposing them would aid those committing the crimes. But promised efforts include everything from equipment to monitoring.
Berube said RCMP are “working closely with Canada Post investigators.”