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Resident concerned about mail theft from overflowing collection box

On March 5, Education Hill resident Joanna Pine tried to send something using the collection box in the Bella Bottega parking lot but couldn
On March 5, Education Hill resident Joanna Pine tried to send something using the collection box in the Bella Bottega parking lot but couldn't because it was overflowing.
— image credit: Courtesy of Joanna Pine

About a week and a half ago, Joanna Pine drove to the Bella Bottega shopping complex in downtown Redmond to drop something off at one of the blue outgoing United States Postal Service (USPS) mailboxes.

But when she got there, she found she couldn’t send out her mail because the box was already full.

“I could reach my hand in there and pull mail out,” she said about how overflowing the mailbox was. “I went back the next day and it was even fuller.”

Pine, an Education Hill resident, became concerned about the potential theft issues that could rise from the situation so she called the Redmond Post Office but it was after hours and could not reach anyone. She then contacted the Redmond Police Department (RPD). She stayed until the police arrived.

“I just felt bad because this is other people’s mail,” Pine said about not wanting to leave the mailbox unguarded.

After receiving Pine’s call, RPD contacted the Redmond Post Office to notify them of what was going on and urge them to handle the issue as soon as possible.

Ernie Swanson, spokesperson for USPS’s Seattle district, said when the post office received the call and sent someone out to check on the mailbox, there was no overflow.

“The boxes are emptied twice a day,” he said.

He added that there are seven mail collection boxes in Redmond’s 98052 zip code. They are located at the following addresses: 16700 N.E. 79th St.; 7349 164th Ave. N.E.; 15800 Redmond Way; 15955 N.E. 85th St.; 8703 160th Ave. N.E.; 8867 161st Ave. N.E. and 17667 N.E. 76th St.

Swanson said he wasn’t sure when they received the call, so it may not have been the same day Pine found the mailbox overflowing. As for reasons why the box was overflowing, he said it could have been that it was too full that day. It also could have been that someone tried to send a large package, which then got jammed at the top of the box.

Swanson pointed out that the blue mailboxes are designed to only take in letters and flat envelopes.

“It’s not meant for boxes and that sort of thing,” he said.

Julie Beard, a neighborhood resource officer for RPD, said if people come across an overflowing mailbox, the first thing they should do is not put any more mail in it as that adds to the problem and will expose people to the risk of mail theft. People should then do as Pine did and notify the USPS. If they can’t reach anyone, Beard said contacting the police can help with the process. She said she has spoken with the Redmond Post Office supervisor, who said the office is staffed overnight.

“I haven’t tried calling after hours lately, but the supervisor advised they do have the staffing to respond immediately for situations like this,” Beard said.

As for what police are able to do, she said they typically try to respect the post office and their regulations on handling mail.

“There are a few reasons, including the fact that many people don’t want the police to be anywhere near their private correspondence, and we respect that,” Beard said. “We also want to obey federal laws that restrict who can handle mail.”

Swanson said USPS will be checking on the mailbox in question more often to monitor the situation, and if they do notice that it is overflowing on a regular basis, they will up the collections to three times a day.

Pine stressed the importance of USPS doing its due diligence and addressing this issue as people use the collection box to send things such as bills and personal letters.

“Everybody’s going to be affected by it (if it is not addressed),” she said.

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