A disturbing provincial trend has now hit all to close to home for many local residents.
On December 18 of last year, Walter Johnson went to check his Canada Post Office Box on Rural Route 24 west of Sylvan Lake. To his surprise, the U-bolt on the box had been cut off and mail had been thrown around on the ground.
“I go to the Post Office and they say ‘Yeah your box has been robbed’” Johnson said. “I was going away on a world-wide trip, so I couldn’t really at the time see what was missing.”
Since returning on May 12, Johnson has looked over his mail and noticed that two cheques from oil companies were stolen and cashed for the sums of $16.71 and $20.38.
“The fact that really bothered me is that they forged my name and did a really good job at it,” he said.
He added that the potential identity theft if more disturbing then the money lost.
Johnson has since filed a report with the RCMP and informed Canada Post to hold his mail. It was at this time that Johnson learned that he was not the only victim of this crime and that the box had actually been robbed several times in the last few months.
Susan Foy has had her post office box broken into four times this year.
“It’s a little discouraging,” she said. “At Christmas time we lost a lot of Christmas cards and pictures of our kids and grand kids.”
According to Sylvan Lake RCMP, this type of crime has become all too common in the region and can be tricky to solve.
“These crimes are difficult to solve unless the suspects are caught with the stolen property,” they said. “We have had some people caught with stolen mail and when we catch them, they are charged with possession of stolen property.”
They added that since these suspects are also vandalizing the Post Office boxes, they would also be charged with mischief if they are able to connect them to the crime.
According to the RCMP, Canada Post is in the middle of a two-year project of replacing these old green post office boxes with ones identical to the brown ones found within Sylvan Lake. These new boxes will have no identifying labels connecting the boxes to the citizen’s homes – something that was a concern to both Johnson and Foy.
An official response from Canada Post media relations that was sent by email stated that “Canada Post takes the security of the mail very seriously and we’re working closely with local police in their investigation.”
“Mail theft is a federal crime, punishable of up to ten years of imprisonment”
They added that it takes determination to “deter and stop those who commit property crimes.” Canada post added that it is working closely with police to address this issue.
RCMP added that the reason this theft has become common is likely that “bad guys learn a new trick and then end up in remand where they school the rest of their friends.”
“It is not one person doing it. I think there is a whole lot of people who learn one way or another that it might be a good place to find something that is worth money to them,” he stated.
Johnson has decided not to wait for the new brown boxes and has decided to move his mail to another city – something that has cost him over $300 of his personal finances.
“I asked the post office if they can provide me an exemption of the cost since they are not providing me security of services and they said they are unable to do that,” he said. “It’s a shame rural people have to pay for security of mail coverage that is not being provided by a crown corporation.
He added that he intends to write his local MP and MLA about the situation.
The RCMP suggests to people that they should make sure that mail does not pile up in their box by checking it everyday.
Todd Colin Vaughan