A community mailbox near 26 Avenue and 171 Street is missing.

A community mailbox near 26 Avenue and 171 Street is missing.

Mail thefts reroute upset recipients

Canada Post seeks solutions for community-mailbox crime, much of which occurs in Surrey.

A South Surrey man is calling on Canada Post and police to start using video surveillance in the fight against damage to and theft from community mailboxes.

“This has been going on for 20 years in my neighbourhood,” Murray McFadden told Peace Arch News last week. “It’s not getting any better, and, of course, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.

“To me, (installing surveillance cameras) makes sense.”

Theft and damage issues with community mailboxes have made headlines in recent months, as residents venturing out to collect their mail discover superboxes that have been  either pried open and cleaned out, or hauled off in their entirety.

It’s a problem throughout the Lower Mainland, with those on the front lines saying it has been particularly prevalent in South Surrey, Cloverdale, Newton and Langley.

Stephen Gale, president of the Fraser Valley West local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said Monday the problem has become a daily issue.

“It’s not getting any better in the short-term,” Gale said. “It normally spikes, then calms down. This time, it doesn’t seem to be calming down.

“It didn’t help that… one of the TV (news) shows pretty much showed everybody how to get into these boxes.”

Gale said he is not convinced video surveillance is the way to go.

“It doesn’t stop the crooks, they just hide their faces and still break in,” he said.

In addition to the logistics of installing the cameras, there is the issue of privacy, he added.

“Anytime a camera goes up anywhere, it’s an issue,” he said. “I just don’t think that’s a practical solution.”

Canada Post spokesperson Anick Losier declined to confirm if video surveillance is among measures being considered by a task force established to deal with the issue. She cited concern that disclosing any of the preventative tactics could inadvertently end up helping the culprits.

A Surrey RCMP spokesperson said only that “all possibilities” are being explored to improve mail safety, and that an officer was to meet with a Canada Post security representative this week.

While Losier did not have specifics on the number of mailboxes affected, Gale estimated that on any given day, “hundreds” of residents are having to attend either the White Rock Letter Carrier Depot or the Cloverdale depot to pick up their mail, where it is being held pending repair or replacement of their community mailbox.

For some, it is a minimum 40-minute round-trip drive, and Gale said not everyone is thrilled with the inconvenience.

One man told PAN Friday that the line up at the White Rock depot – located in South Surrey in the 15400-block of 24 Avenue – was 10 to 12 people long.

“There’s at least one situation every day,” Gale said, referring to times when managers are called to deal with upset customers.

He appealed to residents to have patience.

“We know there’s lots of lineups,” he said. “The staff that are working there are doing their best. They have nothing to do with the break-ins, so please don’t yell at them.”

He suggested people with concerns to contact their MPs.