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Security Mailboxes 101: Your Locking Mailbox Questions Answered

The U.S. Postal Sevice recorded more than 2000 arrests for mail theft in 2019. If you think that is too many, consider how many thefts went unreported or unsolved!

The vast majority of postal theft happens after the mail carrier deposits items in your box. Unscrupulous people simply remove the mail to examine at their leisure. Checks, credit cards, or your personal identifying information are the goals.

Parcel theft is even more of a problem. Unsecured parcels on the doorstep or porch are tempting to thieves. Booby-trapped packages are no deterrent. Security mailboxes and parcel drops are the solutions.

Read on to learn more.

Community Mailboxes and Cluster Box Units

New housing and business developments use centralized mail delivery. The large community mailboxes, a.k.a cluster box units, are preferred by the postal service. These units are mandated in some areas. They allow more efficient mail distribution.

The sturdy construction of the box units protects the contents against theft. The minimum requirements for a Cluster Box Unit or parcel drop are lengthy. There are requirements for the locking mechanism as well as the strength of the walls.

These security mailboxes feature locks for each customer. The letter carrier holds a master key.  Privately owned cluster box units are the responsibility of the owners—for example, the boxes inside an apartment building or corporate center.

Modern Security Mailboxes

Older buildings with unsecured mail drops must replace obsolete receptacles with USPS-approved mailboxes. Apartment buildings that undergo substantial renovation must include new mailboxes in their plans.

The new community mail unit may or may not have a secure mail drop box for outgoing mail. Outgoing mail is a service of the mail carrier and is not required in all cluster box units.

The mail carrier and the customers need to have easy and unimpeded access for pickup and delivery.

Plan approval is through your local post office. Commercial buildings and new residential developments follow the same process.

What’s the Difference Between Commercial and Residential Security Mailboxes?

Both types of mailboxes feature sturdy construction and locking doors. However, commercial mailboxes meet specific requirements for mounting and installation. The USPS maintains master keys to access the whole unit for delivery.

Customers’ keys may only access their box or parcel drop. Residential delivery boxes have keys only for the customer. The USPS does not accept keys to private residences’ mailboxes.

What Kind of Configuration Is Most Secure?

Security mailboxes are available in vertical and horizontal configurations. There are pluses and minuses to both. Vertical layout refers to a tall, narrow box. These have a left or right opening door, although top or bottom hinges are popular.

Horizontal boxes allow mail to lie flat in a wide, shallow stack. Either configuration is safe, but many people prefer horizontal boxes to allow more deliveries in limited space.

What Are the Mounting Options?

Security mailboxes may be mounted freestanding on a pedestal, to a wall, or recessed in a wall. For pedestal mounts, a deep base to prevent tip-overs and collisions is a must. The connection between the box and pedestal can be a weak point. Look for postal service approved styles.

Wall-mounted options can be simply hung protruding from the wall or recessed within the wall. The recessed mounting looks better and feels more secure as the top, back, sides, and bottom of the box are not exposed.

For all available options, the mail carrier must access the box. This can be from the front or back. The mail carrier needs sufficient space to access all the customer boxes at once.

What Is the Difference Between Outdoor and Indoor Security Mailboxes?

All security mailboxes should have solid construction of heavy-duty steel or aluminum. Vinyl or plastic are inappropriate choices for commercial use. Both materials deform easily to allow thieves to bypass locks.

A locking mailbox meant for interior use is made of sturdy materials. Exterior use boxes should also be corrosion resistant, rustproof, and resistant to weather. Powder-coated steel and aircraft aluminum with a protective coating are ideal materials.

A mailbox meant for outdoors needs to have a protruding lip and a slight angle to prevent rain from entering the box. Some outdoor mailboxes are designed for stand-alone installation. Other boxes need some shelter from the elements.

What Are Theft-Deterrent Features?

A secure mail drop box features a one-way slot for mail deposit. It prevents mail from being fished out. This is accomplished using long, narrow feed tubes, rotating catches, and/or specially designed drops. They move mail out of reach once dropped into the holding area.

Specially restricted keys are needed to open USPS carrier boxes. USPS master locks are case-hardened steel and hard to duplicate, while customer locks are smaller, more straightforward, and easy to replace.

Theft-deterrent box design includes reinforcement at key points to prevent deforming the box. Extra tough interior hinges prevent door removal. Case-hardened locks resist smashing and forcing. Look for extra tough latches and locksets with several different key patterns.

Security Mailboxes for Your Building

Some features that all new cluster box units share:

Commercial or apartment mailboxes come in horizontal and vertical configurations. Compartments of secure mailboxes have individual locks and require a key to access. The USPS installs the master lock, and only their mail carrier has access to delivery and outgoing drop.

Some newer mailboxes come with a secure parcel locker or outgoing mail drop. Apartment and commercial mailboxes use sturdy materials and several different mounting techniques.

Indoor and outdoor boxes need heavy-duty metal construction and sturdy, vandal-proof installation. Your local USPS executive can give you detailed guidelines on the requirements for cluster box units in your neighborhood.

Our experts have more than 30 years of experience delivering the right mailboxes to commercial, military, and corporate installations. Let us help you find the right security mailboxes to complement your needs, style, and decor.

Contact us today for a quotation.