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Outgoing mail should be dropped into secure P.O.
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If you had not already noticed, the number of United States Postal Service (USPS) neighborhood mailboxes has decreased dramatically. In years past, these mailboxes could be found within walking distance of most all neighborhoods. But with the high frequency of mailbox vandalisms, which include setting the contents on fire, throwing trash and food into them, smashing the boxes, tagging them, scratching them and, in some instances, the outright theft of them, the USPS has been routinely removing these boxes from our neighborhoods.

The theft of mail is another compelling reason that the boxes have been permanently removed from neighborhoods. I suspect that the cost for collections has also been a consideration, but the theft aspect is the driving force behind the removal policy. The boxes have remained in place until the postal service registers problems with them. Sadly, in Ceres, for example, there are only three neighborhood mail drop boxes left. It is a testimony to the scope of the theft problem we have in this region, as well as how severe the lack of respect for property has become by certain elements of our society.

I have been advising Ceres residents against the use of neighborhood mail drop boxes for several years because of the mail theft and corresponding identity theft problems. It is always best to bring mail directly to the post office, or, even if using the box outside the post office, be sure the mail is deposited before the scheduled pick-up time. If the mail is allowed to remain in the box overnight, it becomes vulnerable to theft and acts of vandalism. Some people leave outgoing mail in their home mailboxes for mail carrier pick up. This is a risky arrangement, since thieves routinely travel through neighborhoods looking for mail to steal.

It will not be long before there are no neighborhood mail drop boxes anywhere in this county. But it should be noted that in some areas, for example the Bay Area, there are still many of them. They are simply not subject to the same problems as is the case here.

The point of this column is primarily one of caution and crime prevention. However, a secondary reason exists as well; parents need to teach their kids respect for property. Not to say that adults are not causing some of these problems. The young people are more likely to be involved in the mailbox vandalisms - which occur more often than the thefts, and it is adults who are more likely to breach mailbox security to steal checks and gain information for identity theft purposes. For the adults, the message is too late. They have already cast themselves into an immoral life of thievery. Young people can be taught, however, and parents have much to do with the process.

The loss of neighborhood mailboxes because of theft and vandalism represents much more than mere inconvenience. It stands as yet another symbol of a deteriorating society; one that fails to instill proper values and standards of behavior. The good news is that society can turn this around. It is up to us.