A mail theft last week that resulted in the theft of thousands of dollars raises questions about claims by Canada Post that it works closely with police.
Last Wednesday, a Marshall Road area resident discovered her community mailbox, at Panorama Drive and Everett Road, had been broken into.
Her husband soon learned that thieves had made off with both a business client card, and its pin code that was sent around the same time. They then used the card to make a false deposit, transferred the money that was presumed to be in the account to another, and then made at least $15,000 in withdrawals.
The husband’s bank is on the hook for the money, but his wife told The News that the couple is now left wondering what else was stolen. In particular, the couple never received their child care benefit cheque, sent in the mail last week.
But while Canada Post insists it works closely with police to solve mail break-ins, when The News contacted the Abbotsford Police to inquire about the case, Const. Ian MacDonald said the first time police were made aware of the incident was on July 24 when the woman’s husband contacted police, more than two days after the woman discovered the break-in and visited her local post office to tell them about the incident.
So far no suspect has been identified, MacDonald said.
Anick Losier, a spokesperson for Canada Post, told The News via email that the organization works “closely with police and authorities to find those at the source,” and that it is “committed to do everything possible to support the police in their efforts to do so.”
Losier wrote: “When there is a confirmed security incident, our processes require notification to police and in addition our postal inspectors work closely with local police agencies to deploy investigative strategies, including information sharing when specific trends are noted.”
Losier did not answer a question as to whether the incident at Panorama and Everett had ever been reported to police.
MacDonald contrasted the help Abbotsford police receives from Canada Post with that from ICBC regarding vehicle incidents.
“We are in contact with ICBC daily. Their special investigation unit officers are talking to our officers; our two record sections are talking all the time. We’re really working hand-in-hand, and that’s not going on to the same extent with Canada Post.”
MacDonald said the lack of information underscores the need for residents who notice something amiss to contact police.
“In policing, knowing about the incidents – having those incidents reported – is a crucial step. How can we investigate those incidents if we don’t know they took place?”
Canada Post continues to refuse to tell The News how many mail theft incidents have been reported in Abbotsford in recent weeks.
Police have at least one lead in the recent spate of postal box break-ins, but also a worrying observation about the safety of community mailboxes.
Last Sunday, a woman was sitting on her computer in her Goodchild Road home when she heard a large diesel truck idling nearby. When she went to the window, she saw a man rifling through mail from the community box four doors down the street.
The man took off in the truck – which was driven by another person – after the woman’s husband left their house and yelled “Hey!” But police were able to get a description of a black Dodge pickup truck and a licence plate
Const. Ian MacDonald said they have a person of interest, although neither he nor the truck has been located.
The woman told The News that the man had removed the entire face of two panels of the three-panel box, and seemed to enter the box remarkably fast. MacDonald confirmed that, and said there was little damage done to the box.
That could mean that the thieves “have stolen postal keys or … created their own makeshift key,” MacDonald said. That could help explain the rash of other reported thefts.
The fact that no damage had been detected also creates the possibility that thieves with such keys could also be stealing some mail undetected, although in many recent cases, mail box units have had the doors torn off or locks punched out.
Losier said Canada Post has improved the time it takes to repair or replace community mailboxes, with the average time now under two weeks.
However, a local resident was told by Canada Post last week that she and her neighbours would have to pick up their mail from a central station for five to six weeks until the damaged mailbox in her area was repaired or replaced.
When a site is not in service, mail is delivered to a depot at Gladys Avenue for pick up. If it’s not picked up, it will be delivered when a mailbox is replaced or repaired.
Losier did not answer repeated questions from The News in regard to the number of new, more secure mailboxes that have replaced the more vulnerable older-style boxes.
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast was unavailable for comment, with a staff member citing ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in Hawaii.