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It's 10 o'clock at night. Do you know where your letters are?

Updated on December 25, 2016

A Target for Theft

The rapidly growing trend of cluster mailbox theft in the U.S. has some residents taking up arms against the boxes themselves.

One California neighborhood initiated an online petition to end all CBU use by the United States Postal Service. But are the boxes to blame? Is the USPS to blame? Or, is this simply an age-old crime that will continue to evolve along with the delivery service?

So why are Cluster Mailboxes so common?

From large cities to rural areas, CBUs are a common sight. In neighborhoods and communities where door-to-door delivery has been deemed uneconomical, the Postal Service opts for the use of cluster mailboxes: a decision they admit brings a 300% savings in delivery costs. But while the new standard for USPS cluster boxes does institute several much-needed security improvements, there are a vast number of the older, below-standard boxes still in use. These older boxes are much less secure than the new 4C standard CBUs, making them a target for prowling mailbox bandits.

With added security precautions, is the Postal service still to blame for this repetitious atrocity being inflicted on thousands of mail-abiding citizens? While the answer may seem like an obvious one, it is more complicated than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you live in an area where the boxes are maintained by the city or county, you could contact your local postmaster about having your boxes, doors or locks upgraded. However, if you live in a community with an HOA, the parts, maintenance and replacement of these units may fall into your association dues. If you find yourself in the latter category, you may have options aside from these poor, defenseless boxes.

Are there options?

The first step for any neighborhood should be to ensure the most current USPS-approved cluster mailbox unit is installed. If you want something besides that old, grey cluster box; high-security, residential mailboxes are available on the market. However, they may not be an economical alternative to the trusty CBU. With high-security boxes, each unit is much bulkier than a standard cluster box receptacle. Many locations simply don’t have the space needed to install the adequate number of units. Likewise, the costs could be substantially higher than simply upgrading the community’s existing cluster mailbox unit.

So you might be muttering, “Great! I’m stuck with these cluster boxes!” Does this mean you have no defense? Absolutely not! Even though you may not have a choice in changing the type of box in which your mail is delivered, there are ways you can help reduce your chances of becoming a victim.


Steps to increase security

Begin by having your out-of-date CBU replaced with a current 4C unit, utilizing the most recent USPS-approved security features. You will be more protected with the modern locking mechanisms, and anti-pry point design features. What if the thieves have made a fake “master key”? What can you do then?

Make sure the mail receptacles are well lit! Maybe even request that your HOA install a surveillance camera.Thieves hate being seen, in person or on tape. Learn your delivery schedule, and if possible, retrieve your mail as quickly as possible. If you are leaving town, notify your local post office to suspend delivery until your return.

There is always something we can do to make our homes, families and even our mailboxes safer.

Just as the Pony Express gave way to mail trucks and strong-boxes were replaced with mailboxes, the highwaymen have traded their six shooters for crow-bars. Thus, the fight to ensure mail security must continue To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “ the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is the indifference of good men.” As long as there are well-lit cluster units and state-of-the-art security features, darkness cannot prevail.


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