30 August 2011

Mail Theft in Carbon Canyon

UPDATE, 31 AUGUST:  A comment was left today with this post, noting that last Thursday evening/Friday morning, mailboxes were also burglarized at Olinda Village and Hollydale Mobile Home Estates, so the reach of the thieves was much wider, though not surprisingly so, than noted below.

It's a bit of old news by now, but last Friday, a string of apparently-related mail theft occurred in several Carbon Canyon neighborhoods in Chino Hills stretching from Summit Ranch to Sleepy Hollow.  In the latter, the area in and around several mailbox clusters near the community center was littered with discarded mail. It was probably the same, or largely so, in the other affected areas.

It has been stated that a resident of Mountain View Estates, off Canon Lane on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road not only had a Bank of America debit card just happen to arrive in the mail that day, but that the thieves were able to call the bank and change the password without having to answer security questions designed to prevent just that and then drain the account.

Notably, while mailboxes are federal property and are subject to criminal laws (see here) governing them and the mail in them, there is law and then there is enforcement and sometimes the twain definitely do not meet. 

As an example, I have twice in the last few years had my mailbox physically removed from its clustered location and left lying on the ground or on a hillside slope by another resident who felt that it and several others of my neighbors were on his property.  In the last incident, I had the privilege of driving several miles to the post office to pick up my mail, while the property owner, who lived in the High Desert area, didn't have to worry about whether his own tenants got their mail, because Big Brother was encroaching on his sacred domain.  I was within a couple of days, even with an extension, of having my mail automatically returned to senders because of postal service policy preventing holding mail for longer than a couple of weeks.

Technically, in the ideal world, this type of action is against the law and would warrant actual enforcement against the perpetrator.  In the real world, seeking assistance from federal representatives and agencies like the postal service and Representative Gary Miller's proved virtually futile.  One helpful employee at the Chino Hills post office was willing to help get the property owner to talk to a few of us residents and the regular mail carrier had helpful advice and sympathy, but the final solution was negotiated by us rather than dealt with, as it should have been, by federal representatives using existing federal law crafted precisely to prevent these things from happening in the first place.

However, even in the best of economic times, the likelihood that action would be taken by federal postal inspectors (see here) on localized vandalism and theft would be remote anyway.  Funding and staffing is undoubtedly insufficient to deal with the bigger crimes of mail fraud and theft, as it is.  And, with declining usage of the mails, funding will continue to decline and services cut even further.

Fortunately, I shelled out the big bucks to get a locking mailbox with a specially-contoured delivery door that prevents being able to reach in and grab mail out, because at the time I was treasurer of an organization and received regular mail including checks and cash--though this is no longer the case.  Ours was the only (or one of two, maybe) of the seven or so boxes that was so designed.  Otherwise, it would seem that most households are on their own.

Otherwise, the best way to safeguard your mail is to rent a box at the post office or a privately-operated mail center.  Interestingly, while the north side of Sleepy Hollow received, several years back, a postal service-installed cluster box system next to the Canyon Market, a similar system installed in the city-owned community center parking area was only here for a few days before the city insisted the postal service remove it.  We still are using the old clusters (in my case, a simple piece of board attached to old metal posts that has probably been there for decades.)

It would probably be a lot more secure if the city and postal service could agree on a location for the locked cluster box like the other side of Sleepy Hollow has.  As fpr the other neighborhoods hit by the theft, potential solutions could be a lot more difficult or impossible.

So, will anything come out of what amounted to probably dozens of vandalized mail boxes with who knows what amount of stolen mail? One would hope so, but given this blogger's past personal experience, it would be great to be pleasantly surprised, but . . .

1 comment:

Canyon Native said...

Mail thefts also occurred in Hollydale and Olinda Village. The thefts took place late Thrusday night or before dawn on Friday. Brea Police were notified and came to Olinda Village, but no person has been arrested to date that we know about.