LL Notes from the Editor eNL - May 18th, 2022
LL Notes from the Editor eNL | View online
May 18, 2022
Securing the Mail
Mail theft is a growing problem, and many mailboxes are easy targets. The Postal Inspection Service data shows that mail-theft reports soared by 600% over a three-year period, rising from about 25,000 in 2017 to roughly 177,000 in 2020. And that’s just the mail that’s reported to the United States Postal Service (USPS) as stolen. With an average of 129.2 pieces of mail delivered annually to 161.5 million addresses, many more thefts likely go unnoticed and unreported.

Often, these thefts are crimes of opportunity, with thieves grabbing mail out of an open box, hoping to find gift cards, credit cards or the information necessary for identity theft. Many could be prevented if mailboxes were well-secured.

In single-family neighborhoods, most mailboxes are at the curb or on the front porch, in reach of any passersby. Locking mailboxes are available through big-box and building supply stores. Although their installation is likely a DIY or handyman job, locksmiths will be called on when keys are lost.

The bigger opportunities are in the multifamily market. Think of mailbox banks commonly found in apartment and condominium developments or even small, upscale subdivisions. Many are rusted, damaged and ready for an upgrade. Replacing the cam locks on an individual box is a quick and easy job, and installing new, more-secure mailboxes and package lockers is a much bigger undertaking.

Now comes the hard part. Upgrades must be done in accordance with USPS regulations. And getting approval or even basic information takes a great deal of patience and perseverance.

My own homeowner’s association took months to get the local post office to approve its construction plans. Then, the old structure was demolished, a new mail kiosk was built and the mailboxes themselves were installed. Finally, keys had to be distributed to 200-plus homeowners and tenants. All this was done — at the height of the pandemic — with little or no warning, forcing anyone who wanted mail during the two-plus weeks of construction to go to the post office.

In 2006, postal regulations were updated to require all new construction and major renovation projects to use mailbox systems that complied with USPS STD-4C. This standard replaces traditional cube-style compartments with more flat-style compartments as well as incorporates integrated or stand-alone parcel locker options into the mailbox. A minimum of one parcel locker is required for every five residences.

All 4C units must meet the following installation requirements:

  • The floor of the lowest patron mailbox shall be no less than 28 inches above the finished floor.
  • The patron lock in the highest mailbox shall be no more than 67 inches above the finished floor.
  • The USPS master door lock opening must be a minimum of 36 inches and a maximum of 48 inches above the finished floor.
  • The floor of the lowest parcel locker shall be no less than 15 inches above the finished floor.
  • The master access door(s) must be allowed to open a minimum of 90 degrees with no obstruction.

Whether the mailboxes are commercial or residential, the builder or property owner is responsible for providing lock and key service for cluster box units. The locks or keys for each of the compartments will be provided with the mailbox unit. The Postal Service will furnish the “master access lock” that allows mail to be delivered. 

Some helpful reference info links:

USPS mailbox requirements

USPS Guide for Mailbox Construction

Mailbox manufacturer Salsbury Industries’ comprehensive guide to mailbox regulations and specifications

CompX National’s mailbox lock products

Locksmith Ledger article, CompX Locks Secure Apartment and Commercial Mailboxes

Locksmith Ledger article, Major Changes in Postal Mailbox Lock Regulations (2006)

— Emily Pike


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