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While letterboxes in front doors provide a practical way for our post to be delivered they also present a significant vulnerability that’s often overlooked. In this latest post we highlight the impact of letterbox crime and consider practical ways to bolster protection.
It`s interesting to note that the use of letterboxes in our doors, sometimes called letter plates, is not common throughout Europe. Only the UK, Ireland, Scandinavian countries and to a small extent the Netherlands, use these openings to allow mail to be delivered.
Sadly, crime data for England and Wales demonstrates how these small openings into our homes and workplaces can be used to carry out very serious crimes.
The most serious crime perpetrated via letterboxes is arson. Many injuries and deaths have occurred in the UK due to letterbox arson. UK fire services report that around 90% of domestic arson cases involve the use of accelerants, such as petrol, poured through letterboxes, followed by a burning rag or fireworks. Inevitably, carpeting inside the home is ignited and the primary escape route, via the main door, is blocked by the fire which can quickly fill the home with poisonous fumes. In one recent case a man was arrested after two people suffered serious burns as a result of a letterbox arson attack.
And every year, around the time of Bonfire Night on November 5th, some unfortunate homes are targeted by foolish vandals who post fireworks through their letterboxes simply ‘for a laugh’. Sadly, these pranks have resulted in serious injuries and even deaths, prompting people to call for those guilty of these crimes to be charged for attempted murder.
Criminals are known to use letterboxes to gain visibility inside a property to determine whether it’s occupied and whether there is likely to be anything inside worth stealing. And if they see uncollected newspapers or magazines sticking out of a letterbox this may be enough to suggest there is nobody home and prompt their attention.
Criminals are known to use ‘fishing’ techniques to steal items within reach of the letterbox. Typically they will look for car and house keys which are often conveniently left on a hall table or shelf, within reach of the main door. Once they’re in possession of the house and car keys they are able to easily access the property and steal the car. It`s notable that this form of crime really took off when motor vehicle security improved.
While arson is clearly a very serious, potentially life threatening crime, often perpetrated via letterboxes, vandalism is also very common. Letterboxes are sometimes used to carry out what some consider to be pranks, but can be very impactful and costly. For example, homes have been purposely flooded by pranksters who thought it would be funny to post a connected hosepipe through a letterbox, turn the water on and run away. And there are many cases in which eggs, shaving foam and horrible dog mess have all been delivered via letterboxes.
Many are unaware that their letterboxes can potentially be used by criminals to reach internal door handles. Doors with multipoint locking systems are often left in vulnerable states as many people don’t throw the security bolts by lifting their door handles before locking them at night. This makes it possible to open the door simply by pushing down on the internal door handle. Central letterboxes in front doors are generally around 200mm from the door handle which can often be reached easily, using a stick or length of electrical cable, manipulated to loop around the internal handle to open the door.
The UK police force warns people that their homes are only as secure as the weakest point of entry which is why doors and windows need to be as secure as possible. Letterboxes in doors, as demonstrated in these reports, present is significant vulnerability that requires attention to improve security.
By far the best way to eliminate these letterbox vulnerabilities is to do away with the letterbox entirely from the main door and replace it with something else. As noted, the UK is one of the few European countries that use openings in our main doors for mail delivery. Secure, external mail boxes provide a far more robust solution.
Secure, weatherproof external mailboxes overcome all of the previously noted letterbox vulnerabilities. The risk of arson, that can put people’s lives at risk and cause extensive damage, is entirely removed as the mailbox is external. And without an opening in the main door, criminals can’t peer inside to see if there is anyone at home, potential fishing exploits are foiled and they can’t attempt to open the door. External mail boxes significantly boost security, both at home and at work.
There are many excellent external mailbox designs to choose from. Some are designed to be fitted to walls or perimeter gates and fences, with secure top and rear access options to retrieve delivered mail. Some provide high volume capacity, big enough to handle lots of mail and large mail items. And there are many different styles and colours to suit all properties and environments.
Anti arson letterboxes are specifically designed to provide robust protection against the increasing risk of arson attacks. As previously noted, around 90% of domestic arson attacks in the UK are perpetrated via letterboxes.
Anti arson mailboxes catch, contain and extinguish any burning objects or liquids posted through the letterbox. The simplest form of anti-arson mailbox collects anything posted through the letterbox in a robust collection bag that’s made from fire retardant, liquid-proof material, so it retains any liquids maliciously delivered via the letter box. Tests have demonstrated how burning rags and paper, both with and without accelerant, are extinguished almost immediately due to the absence of oxygen. And lit fireworks don’t cause any significant damage to the mail collection bag.
Some anti arson mail boxes include one or more inbuilt ALF fire extinguishers. When the extinguisher comes into contact with a flame or heat source in excess of 80 degrees celsius the extinguisher is automatically activated, immediately dousing the fire. Importantly, unlike conventional fire extinguishers, ALF Fire Extinguishers do not need annual pressure testing to verify their performance capability.
Since many of us already have letterbox openings into our homes and businesses it’s important to take appropriate precautions to protect them.
Letterbox cowls or protectors provide simple protection against prying eyes and fishing attacks. And internal mail catchers provide protection against arson and vandal attacks while making it easier to retrieve mail without the need to bend down and pick it up from the floor.
Police forces recommend letterboxes in doors are protected with internal guards and they also highlight the need to pay attention to both cat flaps and dog flaps.
We know how difficult it can be to find and select the right post box when there are so many different styles and designs on the market. That`s why our store presents a carefully curated selection of the best available mailboxes that provide value for money. We also provide a simple guide to enable you to select the best mailbox for your needs
If you have any questions about which mailbox is right for you, what you can do to secure your letterboxes or bolster your security, or if you have any special requirements, remember that we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide free, expert advice.
This message was added on Wednesday 1st June 2022
Need Help or Advice?
Call the Insight team
01273 475 500