Thieves targeting community mailboxes, postal workers warn

Peter Godor's community mailbox has become a target for thieves.

At least four times in the past two years his postbox in Edmonton's Griesbach neighbourhood has been broken into.

Godor says Canada Post has changed the locks repeatedly but, again and again, thieves have returned to pry open the doors and pillage through letters and packages. 

"Over the last year, increasingly, our community mailbox is broken into more and more frequently," Godor said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

"It takes a lot of force. It looks like they actually hammered it in with a crowbar." 

Canada Post confirmed that there have been multiple mailbox thefts in the Griesbach area but declined to comment further, citing an ongoing police investigation.

According to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), community mailboxes across the country have become targets for thieves and vandals.

"We've kind of lost track of how many times this has actually happened," said Roland Schmidt, president of CUPW's Edmonton local.

"When you remove mail delivery from people's individual residences and move it a distant location, it's just going to raise the probability of people tampering with them."

'Something that Canadians don't want'

Since 2014, about 840,000 households had their door-to-door delivery halted. Residents get their mail from community boxes instead.

The plan, brought in as a cost-saving measure under the previous Conservative government, was to convert some five million addresses. It caused a massive public backlash; seniors, people with disabilities and others were angry about the changes.

The Liberal government scrapped the conversion plans in 2018 but the majority of Canadians now receive their mail through community boxes. 

The Crown corporation delivers to 16.4 million addresses across Canada, and 33 per cent of them now receive their mail and parcels in community mailboxes. Another 27 per cent of addresses get mail through a group mailbox that is privately owned, such as in apartment buildings or seniors' homes.

The corporation's bottom line has taken precedence over security of service, Schmidt said. 

"You can't take it too personally that they're trying to get as much profitability out of their company as possible and the way to do that is to reduce door-to-door delivery," he said.

"They're not going to acknowledge the complications that arise with switching over to the community mailbox model, even though it's arguably quite unnecessary and something that Canadians don't want." 

CBC

Schmidt said the union has repeatedly asked Canada Post for official statistics on the number of incidents of theft and vandalism at community mailboxes. 

Canada Post has told the union it doesn't keep such statistics, Schmidt said. In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Crown corporation said it does not divulge statistics or its security measures to the public. 

"As you can understand, we don't divulge specific security measures or broader information related to our equipment publicly as doing so would significantly hamper their effectiveness," reads the statement.  

"Our efforts are led by our dedicated and highly trained team of postal inspectors who work regularly with local police on a variety of matters."

Edmonton Police Service Sgt. Paul Looker said police don't track mail theft specifically, since it falls under the larger category of theft under $5,000.

Looker, who works with the crime prevention unit, suggests that you can also have something important delivered to work, or an alternate address. He also recommends checking community mailboxes every day.

"Make sure you check them daily, and if you are around, at home, and know what time the mail person delivers, try to get there right after they deliver," Looker said.

"And, if you are going away, for a period of time, see if you can get your friend or your neighbour to check your mail for you." 

'If there is a will there is a way'

Those who have not received an expected parcel are advised to inform the sender to initiate a claim with Canada Post customer service at 1-800-267-1177. Anyone concerned about identity fraud should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

After filing numerous reports with police and Canada Post, Godor said he has given up on formally reporting the break-ins. 

He said the best-case scenario would be a return to door-to-door delivery but he knows that would be costly.

He has little hope the situation will improve.

"Unfortunately, I think it's just the nature of the crime that it's very difficult to look into, or monitor or investigate,"Godor said.

"I don't know how much more robust you could build the [mailboxes] to prevent that from happening. 

"Whoever broke into them used a lot of force and equipment, and if there is a will there is a way."

With files from Emily Senger