For the 10 years that John Yates has been working at the Heights Road Post Office in Darien, he has not seen any mailbox theft — until recently, that is.
“Someone broke open the mailbox,” Yates said. “We had to replace it with a more secure one.”
In response to the recent thefts at the U.S. Post Office depositories outside of both Darien post offices — Corbin Drive and Heights Road — new, higher security collection boxes have been installed in both locations.
“They changed the style of the box. Now, you can only put letters and flats [large envelopes, newsletters, and magazines] inside,” Yates said. “The mailboxes have steel teeth to prevent anything else from fitting inside them.”
According to Emily Spera, a U.S. postal inspector and public information officer for the Boston division of the U.S. Postal Service, the new mailboxes are intended to provide additional security for customers’ mail.
Spera said her agency is trying a “three-pronged approach” in response to the mailbox theft: Prevention, enforcement and protection.
“For prevention, we educate our consumers to be aware of the pickup time that is listed on the boxes,” she said.
If the mail has just been picked up, to prevent mail from sitting outside in the mailbox for a long time, Spera suggests either walking inside the post office to mail letters, or leaving them with one’s letter carrier or place of business.
In regard to enforcement, “we work with investigators to identify suspects and make arrests,” Spera said.
For protection, Spera said the post office makes it harder to steal the mail by installing the new kinds of mailboxes.
The most recent mail theft occurred in the last week of January at the Corbin Drive Post Office.
Two New Jersey residents and one Pennsylvania resident were recently arrested by Darien Police for alleged mail theft.
The incidents last fall occurred at the Heights Road Post Office.
In one case of mail theft, according to police reports, outgoing checks were removed and altered. The altered checks are then deposited into private, often fraudulent/stolen bank accounts, causing a loss to the victim.
In other instances, according to police, a check of the mailboxes revealed a sticky, glue-like substance on the opening. This is consistent with the practice of “fishing” in the mailboxes using a device covered in glue to retrieve mail from the depository.
Other towns in Fairfield County are experiencing instances of mail theft in a similar manner, according to Spera. The new, securer mailboxes have been installed in those area towns as well.
Darien Police continue to work with both the United States Postal Inspectors Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on these incidents.
“Our agency’s strategy is how to move forward and try to prevent mail theft,” Spera said. “Safer practices of depositing mail is our goal.”