The U.S. Postal Service is replacing tens of thousands of antiquated keys used by postal carriers and installing thousands of high-security collection boxes — including some local ones — seeking to stop a surge of robberies and mail thefts, which have been widely reported in the Dayton region.
The USPS and the Postal Inspection Service said Friday they are installing 12,000 high-security blue collection boxes nationwide to make access to their contents more difficult for criminals and replacing “antiquated” so-called arrow locks with 49,000 electronic locks to make Arrow Keys less valuable for criminals.
The mailboxes at Kettering’s two post offices, which have been repeatedly targeted, are part of the change, Kettering police Lt. Craig Moore said.
“It’s fantastic,” Moore said, adding that drop boxes outside the Hempstead Station Drive and Forrer Boulevard post offices were recently switched.
“Obviously, it’s going to reduce crime and makes it a lot more difficult,” he added. “You have to physically break into it, so you’re making noise and things like that.
“So, thieves are less likely to break into them. Anything we can do to curb the opportunity is going to be better for our community and better for our residents,” Moore said.
Arrow keys have been the focus of robberies of mail carriers reported in Dayton, Huber Heights and Trotwood while one was discovered by Oakwood police in recent weeks during a traffic stop.
Kettering’s are among the hardened blue collection boxes in high-risk areas, according to the Associated Press.
Aside from Kettering, police have said arrow key thefts have led to multiple thefts of USPS collection boxes in Beavercreek, Centerville, Dayton and other areas in recent years.
The aim of the change by the USPS is to make the boxes less attractive to criminals who have been targeting them to steal mail, according to the AP.
Asked Friday how the change would impact Dayton-area mail security, the Cincinnati postal inspector’s office deferred comment to its national headquarters, which responded that it had no additional information.
Nationwide, there’s been an increase in high volume mail theft incidents from mail receptacles including blue collection boxes: 38,500 in Fiscal Year 2022 and more than 25,000 in the first half of Fiscal Year 2023, the USPS said Friday.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Centerville police said they were not aware of the issue, but CPD Spokesman and Officer John Davis was encouraged by the move.
“It certainly sounds like a good idea,” he said.
Local authorities said the arrow keys are being used to steal and alter checks dropped in collection boxes, many of them outside U.S. Post Offices.
Since late 2021, USPS mailbox thefts were recorded from at least seven different jurisdictions’ post office collection containers, amounting to thousands of dollars in stolen checks.
The crimes have led to several area arrests and prompted police to recommend those mailing items drop them in receptacles inside post offices.
Stolen arrow keys can easily be copied, the national president of the postal police officers’ association has told the Dayton Daily News.
“Even if you recover the original stolen arrow key, you have no idea how many duplicates were made,” said Frank Albergo.
Findings from a 2020 Office of Inspector General Audit stated the postal service’s “management controls over arrow keys were ineffective.”
Kettering police last year got federal permission to use GPS tracking devices in “dummy” drop box parcels, leading to arrests and convictions.
The Forrer post office, which had been targeted in previous thefts, was the site on one sting, according to federal court records.
As a result, Leonard Blackstone III, of Kettering, pleaded to obstruction of mail; Keith Dujuan Calahan, of Dayton, pleaded guilty to receipt and unlawful possession of stolen mail; and Jeffrey Weaver Jr., of Centerville, pleaded guilty to receipt and unlawful possession of stolen mail, according to federal prosecutors.