07/30/2013 09:13 EDT | Updated 09/29/2013 05:12 EDT

Super Mailboxes In B.C. Targeted Thousands Of Times, Records Reveal

Pressure is growing on Canada Post amid revelations there are far more incidents of community mailbox vandalism, break-ins and tampering in British Columbia than previously revealed.

Documents obtained by CBC News through a freedom of information request show that Canada Post has recorded more than 4,800 incidents involving community mailboxes, ranging from vandalism and arson to mail theft.

The incidents were recorded in more than 130 communities across the province between 2008 and 2013.

The community mailboxes, also known as super-boxes, have replaced home delivery in many Canadian communities as part of a cost-cutting program by Canada Post.

There are currently more than 20,000 community mailboxes throughout B.C. and Canada Post continues to install more in new subdivisions.

The mailboxes have recently become the subject of numerous complaints of break-ins and vandalism, raising concerns about lost or stolen mail and identity theft.

Surrey resident Craig Findlay, 60, said his community mailbox has been plagued by "non-stop break-ins" over the past decade, often in broad daylight.

"The doors are left wide open — the two big panel doors — and obviously mail missing. Looks like mail fraud-type people looking for phony IDs."

A few months ago, after receiving several complaints, Canada Post installed a new super mailbox with an anti-pry device to replace the old community mailbox in Findlay’s neighbourhood, but it hasn’t stopped the break-ins.

"The super-box they put in is so cheap and flimsy I could pull it over just with my bare hands," said Findlay.

"I think it was the next day it was ripped open — the next day after they replaced the old one with the super-box."

Findlay says Canada Post has never notified him of break-ins. Instead, he and his neighbours have had to call and complain.

The mayor of Belcarra, Ralph Drew, said thieves in his community are targeting new super-boxes too.

“What the thieves have taken to doing now is using a pry device — a screwdriver or crowbar — and prying on the individual mailboxes,” said Drew. "The vulnerable part now is the lock itself."

There have been at least 375 reported incidents of mailbox tampering in Belcarra and surrounding municipalities in the past five years.

Even so, residents are rarely informed when their mail has been compromised, putting more than their personal information at risk, said Drew.

"There's always been a reliance on the government mail as a secure means of moving communications between people.

"When there is a vulnerability that isn’t being addressed by Canada Post, then that’s a very fundamental trust that has been weakened."

Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier said community mailboxes are "very secure" and that the number of incidents is "still incredibly low."

"We do have different strategies that we adopt, whether it’s new equipment that we’re trying — anti-pry kits, new locks — these are all things that we are trying to do in order to deter the efforts," said Losier.

"Whenever we try these new strategies, some of the criminal activities will move to another neighbourhood.

"What we have to do is constantly work with local authorities, constantly work at our processes in terms of ensuring the moment that these incidents are reported.

"We do have a team that is dispatched right away to look at these boxes, retrieve any leftover mail, look at if the box has been pried open.

"The best thing we can recommend to our customers is never to leave mail overnight, because that’s where generally most of these incidents occur."

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