Do thieves have the master key to your mailbox?

A Silver Lake mail box struck by thieves | Michael Donovan

A Silver Lake mail box struck by thieves | Michael Donovan

SILVER LAKE — The tenants of a Silver Lake residential complex this weekend discovered that their centralized mailbox had been opened and emptied of letters and other mailers. How did the thieves do it? Apparently they had obtained a stolen or counterfeited master key that postal workers use to open their mail box and all others nearby.  Now, the U.S. Postal Service is in the process of installing new locks in the Los Angeles area in the wake of similar thefts.

Michael Donovan said his Silver Lake complex near the reservoir is making a new key for the central mailbox after this weekend’s theft. A postal worker told Donovan that similar thefts were happening nearby. Donovan faults the postal service for failing to warn users of centralized or shared mail boxes that the master key may have been stolen or copied.

Earlier this year,  a residential complex near Echo Park Lake also had its centralized mail box broken into in the same manner, according to a resident. A report was filed with the post office but so far there’s been no response, according to a resident, who did not want to be identified. The complex ended up purchasing several surveillance camera, one of which is focused on the mail boxes, he said.

We had four or five incidents beginning back in May (as best I recall). We filed a report with the post office and got a case number, but beyond that we haven’t really heard ANYTHING. Meanwhile, I was checking mail box as frequently as possible and taking all my outgoing mail directly to the post office.

After much discussion among the membership, etc. we finally installed a 6 camera security system, with one camera pointing at the mailboxes and another covering our front entrance. Knock on wood, things have been quiet, except for the theft of a parcel or two that Amazon has left out in the open. Of course, it’s hard to prove causality in these cases, but we are guardedly optimistic.

USPS spokesman Richard Maher said that the agency has received reports of stolen or counterfeit master keys being used by thieves to open centralized mailboxes.

“Just recently the U.S. Postal Inspection Service arrested and charged two people with several felonies each for mail theft and fraud related to these break-ins,” Maher said in an email. “The investigation is ongoing.”

The recent thefts have prompted the agency to begin installing new, high-security locks in parts of the Angeles area, Maher said. However, he did not have information about when or where those high-security locks will be installed.

In the meantime, the postal service advises customers to collect their mail every day, avoid leaving mail in a mailbox overnight and to deposit outgoing mail into blue collection boxes before the final pick up of the day.

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  1. I am the manager at that Echo Park complex. I understand all the mail persons in L.A. have a master key to all the mail boxes. Try calling the Edendale Post Office, Nine times out of ten they ask you for access number! It’s been a very frustrating few months. The Post office has done absolutely nothing!

  2. Every time I take the Gold Line into Union Station from Highland Park I see this ridiculous cartoon of a law enforcement van parked in a lot beside the Post Office on Alameda and Main.

    The van says “US Postal Inspector” on the side. There it sits, day after day. Wires slowly fraying. Tires cracking. Sun gradually bleaching the dark blue paint and cracking the rubber on the windshield wipers.

    It says “US Postal Inspector” on the web-site I have visited many times over the years to report a constant stream of glue-and-stick based mail box robberies in front of my business going back to 2009. After numerous complaints about mail theft, lost bill payments, the blue boxes that used to sit on the corner of Avenue 37 and North Figueroa and Loreto and North Figueroa were simply torn out.

    No arrests were made. No investigation opened, so none had to be closed.

    Why are we allowing our postal service to wither and die in this way? How can we dare to make a claim to be a part of the developed world when, literally, bandits and crooks intercept our correspondence while the government, large corporations, and criminal gangs use every crooked trick in the book to open up the files on our digital lives.

    The long term reality for us, the little people: our trust horizon is shrinking as the radius of potential liabilities we face explodes.

    • The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) represents more than 220,000 employees of the U.S. Postal Service and is one of the largest unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Additionally, APWU is the official union of more than 2,000 private-sector mail workers.

      ^^^^ Here is your answer and by the way the answer to why the LAUSD schools are practically unusable and the answer to why detroit looks as it does today and why the state of California is going to follow suit with it’s obligations to CALPERS and the other bully unions that have bought every puppet politician that give them the unsustainable salary/ benefits and pensions.

      I’m all for a fair wage but it is obvious that these unions take away the incentive for the individual to do a good job or even to care. They know they can’t be fired except in the most extreme cases… where is the incentive?

  3. We’ve had a lot of mail theft at my apt complex here in EP recently. Mail theives are the laziest and dumbest of criminals.

  4. We had some of our outgoing mail (bills) stolen out of our box last week. Got a call from the bank a few days later that someone had taken one of the checks, crossed out the recipient’s name, and tried to cash it. Classy move. I would assume that whoever is doing this is playing the law of averages by stealing as much mail as possible, so watch out!!

  5. Mail theft has been an ongoing problem in Eagle Rock. They are opening apartment complex boxes using master keys like in the case outlined above, they are stealing from single family mailboxes, are putting sticky substances in blue boxes throughout the neighborhood, and are even stealing mail from the blue boxes in the Eagle Rock Post Office parking lot. The Post Office has done NOTHING except tape some signs on the blue boxes in their parking lot suggesting that people not use them and instead take their mail directly inside!

  6. Mail theft is an ongoing issue in NELA for months. Many drop off boxes have had glue put inside to catch the mail before it drops to the bottom. This has been reported by many people: to the mail carrier, to the local post office, and directly to USPS. Despite all of the reports to various postal officials, the boxes go continue to have the glue and the theft continues. If this was a Fedex or UPS issue, the issue would have been resolved months ago.

  7. This reminds me of the recent case where plans allowing 3D printers to print TSA master keys surfaced on the internet: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/10/3d-printed-tsa-master-keys-put-travellers-luggage-at-risk

    Presumably this would be just as easy, once one key gets out.

  8. Well, folks, this has been going on in the area for over two years now.. I have found empty envelopes that were un-cancelled that had contained checks or important documents crumpled up on streets in my area of Silver Lake. After warning my immediate neighbors of mail theft, I heard stories of mail placed in those friendly “secure” blue USPS boxes on the corner that had mail lifted from them. Do not put important mail in those boxes! Once they’re full it’s easy for the thieves to “fish” for them and remove anything of value. Make the extra effort to go to a station and put your mail in a slot in the lobby!!!!!!!! The thieves can easily “wash” you check for $50.00 and turn it into a check for $500. and change the pay to name. I found mail from the outside blue boxes of the Hollywood Way post office on the street in Glendale!!!!

    • I had this very thing happen … glue on the drive-thru post office mailbox, right on their property, check for $23 retrieved, washed, made out for $600, cashed. The thing that made me even more angry than the Post Office not maintaining their on-site mailboxes was that the person who did this had a VERY unusual name (who the check had been changed and made out to), and was easily found online via social media, but the NE police did nothing. Basically told me it would cost too much to investigate and prosecute to make it worth their while. So I had the name of the person and where they lived, but they didn’t pursue it.

      Subsequently, the post office mailboxes have been coated with glue again and I have gone inside to report it, and it took MONTHS before they removed the glue.

  9. this has also happened on multiple occasions to housing developments in highland park

  10. We had a few of these creeps try this in our neighborhood but we chased them out and reported it. I think this is an inside job but I could be wrong. Anyway, if you see them doing this, gather a pose and do a citizen’s arrest. Believe me, if they see about 15 to 20 coming for them, they’ll stop doing this.

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