APD sees uptick in mailbox break ins affecting RM 620 in Four Points and beyond

Griffis Canyon Creek Apartment Homes is just one of many Austin-area complexes that has has its mailbox banks vandalized, according to the Austin Police Department. Photo by Leslee Bassman

Banks of mailboxes within apartment complexes along RM 620 in Four Points—including this one at Griffis Canyon Creek Apartments—have seen break ins, with increasing rates since the pandemic began as confirmed by the Austin Police Department. Photo by Leslee Bassman

By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News

Following the break in and destruction of mailbox clusters at Griffis Canyon Creek Apartments, decade-long resident Amber Goldman said she’s frustrated having to go to and from the post office just to get her daily mail.

The vandalism happened in mid-October at the complex located at 9807 N. RM 620, between Boulder Lane. Goldman said the community’s management stated in an email that multiple Austin complexes had suffered similar damage, resulting in long lines at the local post office.

“I was waiting in a two-plus hour line with other tenants,” Goldman said of her trek to the post office on Saturdays to retrieve her mail. “We weren’t in the line to mail anything or send anything out. This was purely just for tenants picking up their mail.”

A single mother, Goldman called the post office trips “inconvenient” and said packages aren’t being delivered since the package locker at Griffis has been removed as well. Although the mailboxes have been repaired, she said the postal service will need to set up the locks as iit is federal property.

“It’s just very frustrating,” Goldman said.

Her frustrations over the break in are shared with many other apartment residents along RM 620 in Four Points as well as across Austin.

“It is happening citywide,” Austin Police Department Sergeant Mario Gutierrez told the Four Points News of the ongoing thefts of mailbox banks. 

According to Gutierrez, the crime had been occurring before the COVID-19 pandemic began but not in as large numbers as what the department is seeing now, with perpetrators hoping to cash checks stolen from the mailboxes. 

And, pandemic protocols have hindered officers’ ability to identify the criminals and take action, even with security cameras in the mailbox bank areas.

“With everyone wearing masks, we just don’t know who they are,” Gutierrez said of the perpetrators, adding that glove wearing makes identification even more challenging.

The incidents are occurring even in well-lit complexes and communities with security cameras, he said.

Down the street, at 8600 N. RM 620, The Verandah at Grandview Hills also experienced a break in of residents’ cluster mailboxes on Jan. 25, Bassham Properties Operations Manager Nick Moore said. Bassham manages Verandah. 

Until the mailboxes were fixed last week, Moore said the post office had been keeping the mail for those residents whose boxes were affected. He credits the pandemic and February’s winter storm with the extended time frame needed to make the repairs to the mailbox banks.

“It’s been fixed as fast as we’ve been able to,” Moore said. “We have apartments that we’re waiting for appliances to come in since October. With the pandemic, it’s incredibly hard to get things.”

He said another nearby property managed by Bassham, Sonterra Apartment Homes, also had its mailboxes broken into a few weeks prior to Verandah’s incident, requiring those mailbox banks to be replaced as well. That complex is located at 8801 N. RM 620, Austin. 

Breaks of mailbox locks are able to be repaired by the complex’s management, Moore said. But once the bank is damaged, he said Bassham must spend thousands of dollars replacing the banks, expenditures that are below the property’s insurance deductible.

Since the break ins, Bassham has added extra security to the mailbox areas of both Sonterra and Verandah, a measure that’s problematic since padlocks and iron bars—tools which could be used to make the boxes more secure—hinder mail delivery, Moore said. 

“We’re hopeful that this fixes the issue and people won’t be able to be broken into again,” Moore said.

Attempts by Four Points News to reach Griffis for comment were not responded to by press time.