Student mailboxes susceptible to theft

Mailboxes for student residents in the Gorsuch Commons have a locking mechanism that can be reopened without the combination. The locks operate like typical locks with the exception of the way the lock dial also functions as the doorknob of the mailbox. Students spin the three numbers of their combination and then turn right to open the mailbox, but if a student just closes their locker and does not re-spin the lock, then anyone can reopen the mailboxes without a combination.

Candice Kelley, marketing major, lives in the residence halls at UAA. She believes the mailboxes can be secure ways to hold mail, but she also makes sure to spin the lock so that a combination is required every time before opening.

“I’ve learned that the hard way, by my friends just walking by and going ‘oh look,’” Kelley said as she motioned how her friends would open random boxes. “I usually just twist [my lock] back when it’s done, and do it to those surrounding mine. It’s just common courtesy. A lot of people don’t know that, that if you just close it, someone could just open it. When I check mine, I just [twist it back], but most people don’t so it would be very scary to think that someone could be like, ‘Ah, here, let me take your bills.’”

Few new residents realize that the boxes will only be locked if the dial is spun another complete interval. Joel Roberts is the administrative assistant with the University Housing Department, but he is also in charge of mail in the residence halls. Before Roberts was employed by the university, there were investigations into stolen mail from housing mailboxes. Roberts has worked to ensure box security by informing students on how the locking mechanism works.

“It is a concern because the residents need to be responsible for re-securing their boxes,” Roberts said. “I am aware that a number of them kind of like to just spin it into position where it is easily opened. The problem is, if it is easily opened for them, it is also easily opened for anyone else that would be coming by. So, whenever I am dialoguing with someone, and I notice at the end that they may not spin it closed, I ask them can you make sure to spin it closed each time for those purposes.”

Roberts believes this is particularly important for students who have valuable items delivered to campus.

“Part of the reason that I make sure to log every package, even the ones that are non-tracking these days, is because even a small package could have jewelry or something of great value in it. We make sure to log everything and ask that the residents bring their identification and slip in order to release it to them, just on the off chance that it could be delivered to the wrong box,” Roberts said.

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Samantha Skirko is the Assistant Assignments Manager at the Gorsuch Commons, and she also is the person who typically helps new students open their boxes.

“Most of the time, they try to get them opened and they can’t and they just ask for help,” Skirko said. “Sometimes they have a question about which direction to turn them, or once they get to the last number they won’t know to turn them back to the right to get the spring to open.”

When Skirko instructs students how to open the boxes she also tells them to redial the locks to secure the box. Skirko tends to work with a large number of incoming students at the beginning of the year.

“In the very beginning of the semester, I would say anyone who hasn’t been here before usually needs some sort of assistance, which is a couple hundred people usually,” Skirko said. “And then sometimes a few returners if they have a new box because each box sometimes is just a little finicky.”

Mailboxes can easily be re-secured if students properly redial the lock, but if not, their mail is easily accessible by others.