A letter box, letterbox, letter plate, letter hole, deed, mail slot, or mailbox is a receptacle for receiving incoming mail at a private residence or business. For the opposite purpose of collating outgoing mail, a post box is generally used instead.
Letterboxes or mailboxes consist of four primary designs:
- A slot in a wall or door through which mail is delivered (through-door delivery)
- A box attached directly to the house (door-to-door delivery)
- A box mounted at or near the street (curbside delivery)
- A centralised mail delivery station consisting of individual mailboxes for an entire building
- A centralised mail delivery station consisting of individual mailboxes for multiple recipients at multiple addresses in a particular neighborhood or community
Styles and usage
A mail slot (American and Canadian usage) or letterbox (British usage) is a slot, usually horizontal but sometimes vertical, about 30 cm by 5 cm (12 inches by 2 inches), cut through the middle or lower half of a front door. This style is almost universal in British homes and offices, but in the US is limited primarily to older neighborhoods in a few eastern cities. Most are covered by a flap or seal on the outside for weatherproofing. The flap may be closed by gravity, or sprung to prevent it opening and closing noisily in the wind. Some letterboxes also have a second flap on the inside to offer further protection from the elements. There may also be a small cage or box mounted on the inside of the door to receive the delivered mail. Mail slots are limited to receiving incoming mail, as most have no provision for securing and protecting outgoing mail for pickup by the mail carrier.
Wall-mounted or attached mailboxes may also be used in place of mail slots, usually located close to the front door of the residence. They are known as full-service mailboxes, since most have provisions for securing outgoing as well as incoming mail. Attached wall-mounted mailboxes are still used in older urban and suburban neighbourhoods in North America. They are especially common in urban and suburban areas of Canada, where the curbside mailbox is rarely seen except in rural areas. Attached mailboxes are less common in newer urban and suburban developments and in rural areas of the United States, where curbside delivery or delivery to a community mail station (cluster mailbox, known as a bank of post boxes in the UK) is generally used.
Rural and some suburban areas of North America may utilize curbside mailboxes, also known as rural mailboxes. These receptacles generally consist of a large metal box mounted on a support designed primarily to receive large quantities of incoming mail, often with an attached flag to signal the presence of outgoing mail to the mail carrier. In the U.S. and Canada, rural curbside mailboxes may be found grouped together at property boundaries or road/driveway intersections, depending upon conditions. Although the United States Postal Service (USPS) has general regulations stating the distance a letter box may be from the road surface, these requirements may be changed by the local postmaster according to local environment and road conditions.
At one time, nearly 843,000 rural Canadian residents used rural (curbside) mailboxes for private mail delivery, though Canada Post has since required the installation of community mailbox stations for many rural residents.
In the U.S., wall-mounted or curbside mailboxes that are only designed for receiving incoming mail are known as limited-service mailboxes, while mailboxes equipped with a mechanism for notifying the postman to collect outgoing mail from the mailbox are known as full service mailboxes.
A number of designs of letterboxes and mailboxes have been patented, particularly in the United States. One design was the visible mailbox (because it was made of transparent glass) with a flip-up aluminum lid produced during the first part of the 20th century by George F. Collins of the Barlet-Collins Glass Company in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
Letter box standards and construction
The European standard for letter boxes, EN 13724:2002 "Postal services – Apertures of private letter boxes and letter plates – Requirements and test methods", replaces earlier national standards such as BS 2911:1974 "Specification for letter plates" or DIN 32617. It specifies among other things:
- Envelope size C4 (229 mm × 324 mm) must be deliverable without bending or damage
- The internal volume must able to hold at least a 40 mm high bundle of C4 envelopes
- Aperture width of either 230–280 mm (> C4 width) or 325–400 mm (> C4 height)
- Aperture height of 30–35 mm
- Mounting height of between 0.7 and 1.7 m for the aperture
- When positioned externally, the post box should not allow more than 1% total capacity water ingress from natural precipitation or moisture causes.
- Various privacy, theft-protection, vandalism resistance and corrosion-resistance test requirements
This Standard is voluntary. It was developed by a German mail boxes manufacturer Burg Wächter and it reflects this manufacturer's technical capability and commercial interests with a number of the specifications unfounded, for example, aperture dimensions or internal volume, while the vital issues of security, energy saving, and environmental issues of a property and the occupants are not addressed in the Standard.
Although the Standard was due for a review after 5 years in 2007, this did not happen. In April 2013 the amended Standard BS EN 13724:2013 was finally published, however, again it was drafted by the same company and is nearly word-for-word copy of the old EN 13724:2002 Standard. The essential amendments (especially important for the UK) were not included again and the interests of security, energy saving and wellbeing of the public were not addressed.
For those neighbourhoods where mail delivery to a mail slot is still provided, mail slots must have an opening not less than 17.5 cm by 4 cm, and must be located in a front door or adjacent panel not more than 125 cm and not less than 60 cm from the finished floor line. Wall-mounted mailboxes equipped with a slot must have a slot opening measurement not less than 13.5 cm by 4 cm and the slot located on or near the top of the box.
Curbside mailboxes, known in Canada as rural mailboxes, must be weatherproof, have space for the name of the mailbox owner, and possess a signal device on the right-hand side (when facing the front of the mailbox) for pickup of outgoing mail. The signal device must rise above the mailbox and be visible at a distance, and must not obscure the mailbox owner's name or impede vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Canada Post requires all rural mailboxes to have a minimum interior dimensions of 45 cm in length by 17.5 cm in width by 17.5 cm in height for a rectangular mailbox, and 45 cm in length by 25 cm in diameter in the case of a cylindrical mailbox. All rural mailboxes must be equipped with a tightly-fitting, self-sealing front door that cannot be secured by a lock and remains in the open position while mail is being deposited. The front door opening must possess a minimum effective opening of 17.5 cm in width and 17.5 cm in height (rectangular box) or 25 cm in diameter (cylindrical box).
In the U.S.A., the U.S. Post Office first established guidelines for mail recipients, including mail slot or mailbox size, location, and identification requirements. While the Post Office permitted alternative designs for attached mailboxes and mail slots that met basic size and construction requirements, the same was not true for curbside mailboxes, which postal regulations required be in the form of the traditional dome-rectangular or 'tunnel-top' design first established in 1915. In 1978, seven years after the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. postal authorities at last approved a "contemporary" mailbox specification for alternative designs.
Currently, U.S. curbside mailboxes are classified as (T) Traditional, (C) Contemporary, or (L) Locking. Traditional or Contemporary non-locking curbside mailboxes are approved in three sizes - No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3, measured by minimum interior dimensions. The largest acceptable curbside mailbox is the No. 3, which measures 22.81 inches long, 11 inches wide, and 15 inches in height (58 cm x 28 cm x 38 cm) at the peak. Locking mailbox designs that provide security for the recipient's incoming mail have fewer restrictions on shape and size, though designs with a slot for incoming mail must be at least 1.75 inches high by 10 inches wide. Residential locking mailboxes cannot require the postal carrier to have a key, by USPS Specifications. Therefore, no USPS approved residential locking mailbox has secure outgoing mail. Installation requirements vary from standard unlocked mailboxes: with locking mailboxes, the incoming mail slot must be 41"-45" above the roadside surface, and the front of the mailbox must be 6"-8" back from the curb. USPS specifications for all mailboxes mandate the same, except the placement of the 'incoming mail area' varies with a locking mailbox.
External or curbside letter boxes are not temperature-controlled and are sometimes a concern for temperature-sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals. Conditions can include high and low temperatures outside of the recommended storage conditions for some products. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the temperature in a steel mailbox painted black could reach 136°F (58°C) in full sun while the ambient air temperature was 101°F (38°C).
Private letterboxes or mail slots did not become popular in most of Europe until the mid to late 19th century, although they were used in Paris, France from the late 18th century.
In 1849, the British Post Office first encouraged people to install letterboxes to facilitate the delivery of mail. Before then, letterboxes of a similar design had been installed in the doors and walls of post offices for people to drop off outgoing mail. An example of such a wall box (originally installed in the wall of the Wakefield Post Office) is dated 1809 and believed to be the oldest example in Britain. It is now on display at the new Wakefield Museum.
In the late 18th century, a mailbox was set up at the current location of Boxtree Rd. and Lewis Rd in East Quogue, NY. It is the oldest recorded mailbox in the U.S..
In 1863, with the creation of Free City Delivery, the U.S. Post Office Department began delivering mail to home addresses. Until 1916, U.S. mail carriers knocked on the door and waited patiently for someone to answer. Efficiency experts estimated that each mailman lost over 1.5 hours each day just waiting for patrons to come to the door. To correct this problem, the U.S. Post Office Department ordered that every household must have a mail box or letter slot in order to receive mail. Slowly, homeowners and businesses began to install mail slots or attached mailboxes to receive mail when they were either not at home or unable to answer the door.
As early as the 1880s, the U.S. Post Office had begun to encourage homeowners to attach wall-mounted mailboxes to the outside of their houses in lieu of mail slots. Mounted at the height of a standing man, attached mailboxes did not require the mail carrier to bend down to deposit the mail. They also allowed the homeowner to keep outgoing mail dry while awaiting pickup by the mail carrier.
To reduce the time required for the mail carrier to complete delivery when the front door of a home was located some distance from the street, it was proposed that individual mail boxes for residential or business customers be mounted curbside on fence-posts, lamp-posts, or other supports. While this idea was rejected for city mail delivery, it was adopted for rural areas. Curbside mailboxes located on a rural route or road and sited at the intersection of the road with each recipient's carriageway or private drive allowed limited numbers of mail carriers to deliver mail to many widely-scattered farms and ranches in a single day using horse-drawn wagons or later on, motor vehicles.
Before the introduction of rural free delivery (RFD) by the U.S. Post Office in 1896, and in Canada in 1908, many rural residents had no access to the mail unless they collected it at a post office located many miles from their homes or hired a private express company to deliver it. For this reason, mailboxes did not become popular in rural North America until curbside RFD mail delivery by the Post Office was an established service. Even then, farmers and rural homeowners at first resisted the purchase of dedicated mailboxes, preferring to leave empty bushel baskets, tin boxes, or wooden crates at the roadside for the postman to deposit their mail. Not until 1923 did the U.S. Post Office finally mandate that every household install a mailbox or mail slot in order to receive home delivery of mail.
Originally designed only for incoming mail delivery, curbside mailboxes were soon fitted with a semaphore or signal flag mounted on an attached arm to notify the postman to pickup outgoing mail. Originally, this flag was raised not only by the resident of the property to notify the postman of outgoing mail, but also by the postman to inform the recipient that incoming mail had been delivered - a convenience to all during periods of freezing or inclement weather.
In 1915, the familiar U.S. curbside Joroleman mailbox, named for its designer, U.S. Post Office employee Roy J. Joroleman, was approved by the Post Office. Joroleman, who held a degree in mechanical engineering, designed his mailbox with an unusual dome-rectangular shape, incorporating a curved, tunnel-shaped roof, latching door, and rotating semaphore flag. The Joroleman mailbox has been both exalted as a supreme manifestation of American functionalist industrial design, and excoriated by others as a 'Quonset hut on a stick'.
Constructed of light-gauge painted sheet steel, Joroleman designed his mailbox with an arched, tunnel-shape roof, which prevented excessive accumulation of rainwater or snow while resisting deformation. The tunnel top also simplified the process of mass production by eliminating the need for precise sheet metal bends. Stamped and formed metal straps riveted to the arched opening and the mailbox door served as a door latching mechanism, while a rotating red semaphore flag mounted on a shaft attached to the side of the mailbox served to notify the approaching mailman if outgoing mail was inside. Fitted with a crimped or braze-on rear steel panel and a false floor to keep its contents dry in inclement or humid weather, the Joroleman mailbox required only two rivets, three axle bolts, and four screws and nuts for completion. Durable and inexpensive, the popularity of the Joroleman mailbox was further enhanced by a decision not to patent the design, but to make its specifications known to all potential manufacturers for competitive sale. Adopted across the United States, it has remained the top-selling mailbox since its introduction, and was also widely used in Canada prior to that country's decision to eliminate individual curbside delivery to rural residents.
The Joroleman mailbox was originally approved for manufacture in one size, the No. 1, which could accommodate letter mail, periodicals, newspapers, catalogs, and small parcels. After July 1, 1916, the Joroleman mailbox was the only design approved by the Post Office for new curbside mailbox installations. In July 1929, the Post Office approved specifications for a larger Joroleman mailbox known as the No. 2. The No. 2 mailbox, soon followed by the still-larger No. 3, could accept larger parcels and packages sent via Parcel Post; these large boxes proved particularly popular with rural mail recipients, who could order manufactured goods by mail for delivery to the farm or ranch.
Since 1923, in order to promote uniformity, as well as the convenient and rapid delivery of the mail, the United States Post Office Department, (later the USPS) has continued to retain authority to approve the size and other characteristics of all mail receptacles, whether mailboxes or mail slots, for use in delivery of the mails. The USPS continues to issue specifications for curbside mailbox construction for use by manufacturers. Approved mailboxes from the latter are always stamped U.S. Mail and Approved by the Postmaster General. These standards have resulted in inevitable limitations on product diversity and design, though new materials, shapes, and features have appeared in recent years.
After World War II, postwar suburban home construction expanded dramatically in the United States, along with mail volume. By the 1960s, many new suburban homes were considerably larger and located on larger lots, yet most still used mail slots or attached wall-mounted mailboxes. This development caused a substantial increase in distances walked by the mail carrier, slowing mail delivery while increasing labor costs. In order to reduce delivery times and increase efficiency, the Post Office began requiring all new suburban developments to install curbside mailboxes in place of door-to-door delivery, allowing mail carriers to remain in the vehicle while delivering the mail. In 1978, the USPS (successor to the Post Office) declared that every new development must have either curbside delivery or centralized mail delivery.
KopparStaden AB, a housing cooperative in Falun, Sweden, has begun to install centralized mail stations with individual letterboxes using electronically-operated doors in its buildings.
A letterplate (letter box) is an established opening element of an entrance door in the United Kingdom (UK) for undisrupted mail deliveries but it is a sizeable hole in the exterior door.
It is the only part of a property that is publicly accessible 24 hours a day and exposes the premises and its occupants to all four main risks defined by the Insurance industry: from fire, water damage, malicious damage and weather-related damage.
SBD (Secured By Design Police initiative) New Homes 2010 document  reports that there are three distinct crime risks associated with letter plates, the first two of which are very common problems: i. ‘Fishing’, whereby arm/hand and tool are pushed through the letter plate aperture to steal items such as house and vehicle keys from a hall table with the intention of either entering the house or stealing the vehicle or both ii. Lock manipulation, whereby arm/hand and or tool are used through the letter plate aperture to turn the thumb turn on the back of the lock (if one is fitted) to open the door (Note 21.17). iii. Arson, whereby the arsonist pours accelerant or pushes a firework through the letter plate aperture. The large majority of domestic arson involves the use of the letter plate aperture.
The major concerns are arson and firework attacks as they often cause a devastating effect to the occupants and fires started in this area effectively cut off the main route of escape. According to the UK Fire and Rescue Services one in five of all arson attacks in the UK are on residential properties and police service reports that 95% of these arsons involve accelerants introduced through the letterplate.
More recently the risk of fire starting through the entrance/exit door fitted letterplate (letter box) especially by pouring in an inflammable liquids was highlighted in the ASFP Guide to Inspecting Passive Fire Protection for Fire Risk Assessors (paragraph 3.3)  and in the Guidance document on fire safety for blocks of flats (paragraph 43.2).
Items of mail or a newspaper are often left half-way through the letterplate for hours and let the house heat out. The usual solution against house heat loss through the letterplate is to fit a draught excluder, such as with brush strips. However, the downside is that these devices make it almost impossible to push newspapers and mail items fully through. The brushes get deformed by the stuck mail items and let the house heat out.
The situation is exacerbated with many random people delivering junk mail, free newspapers, leaflets, etc., who do not push their items fully through. However, the Building Regulations 2010 Part L standards demand that new entrance doors U-values must meet the strict U-value heat loss. As a result of the letter box related problems UK is faced with the highest in the world prevalence of crime/vandalism, loss of house heat and CO2 emissions through the entrance door.
Given that most fires occur in domestic dwellings  entrance/exit doors with the unprotected or under-protected letterplate endanger lives, undermine investments in property security and energy-saving and spoil the chances for reaching the UK's Government 2050 target of reducing CO2 emissions from all dwellings by an average of 80%.
Entrance/exit doors and fire rated doors with the unprotected or under-protected letterplate may lack compliance with a number of mandatory UK legislations including Construction Products Regulation (from 1 July 2013), The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) (from 1 October 2006), Building Regulations Part B, E and L, the Housing Act 2004, The Housing Health, Safety Rating System (HHSRS), Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and The Climate Change Act 2008. The RRO covers all non-domestic premises and it brought the common parts of blocks of flats within the scope of mainstream fire safety legislation for the first time.
Original entrance/exit doors often need upgrading for compliance with the old and new pieces of legislation. However, eliminating the letterplate would be inappropriate in most cases as it may mean replacing the whole door, nuisance with getting to mail and there is a certain heritage issue here since, as it is explained above, this style is almost universal in British homes and offices and conforms to the mail delivery method established in the UK since 19th century.
Under Article 14 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO)  it is mandatory that in the premises covered by the RRO the entire escape route up to and including the final exit from a building must remain unobstructed at all times. Escape routes in a building should be designed so that people can escape quickly enough to ensure they are not placed in any danger from fire. The final exit door should be openable from inside the premises without a key and without any specialist knowledge. The final exit doors have two vital functions in the event of a fire: when closed they form a barrier to fire spread, and when open they provide a means of escape.
Often normal entry/exit doors will serve as final exits in non-domestic premises and in the UK they are mostly fitted with a letterplate. As explained, the unprotected letterplate will undermine the effectiveness of a fire rated escape door.
Fire started in the exit door area (for example, as it happens in case of letter box arson) would effectively cut off the main escape route from the premises. For these reasons in the premises covered by the RRO (and Building Regulations) mandatory legislations doors used as the final point of exit should be fire resisting (protected): arson proof or fire doors depending on which areas are at risk of fire.
If risk of fire is applicable to the areas located on both sides of the door, such as the entrance/exit doors of flats that are facing the common areas in HMOs, this means making the entry/exit door a fire door.
If only the internal of the premises is subject to the risk of fire, as it happens in premises with entrance/exit doors facing the road, making the entrance/exit door arson proof should be enough.
A ‘responsible person' can keep the letterplate in the entrance/exit escape door for undisrupted mail deliveries only if he takes measures for protecting the letterplate against internal and/or external spread of fire (and smoke) - any letter boxes that are fitted should be of a protected type.
This requirement leads to a conflict between RRO (and Building Regulations) and the UK test standards for measuring fire resistance of fire rated doors and letterplates.
The currently certified 'fire rated' letterplates are tested in closed position so they may meet the UK Standards and Regulations BS 476:1987 Pt. 20/22, BS 476:1983 Pt. 31.1 (British Standard) and BS EN 1634-3: 2004 (European Normative standard) on the surface and they are allowed in fire rated doorsets. However, the letterplate is an opening element of a door and in open position it has no fire, arson, intruder, crime or vandalism resistance. Those who are using this loop hole in the legislation are putting lives at risk. Chiltern International Fire Ltd: 'A letter plate will only have a fire resistance integrity when in the closed position. If the letter plate is open it would instantly fail integrity by the 25mm gap gauge criteria.'
For these reasons it is mandatory that in the premises covered by the RRO the entrance door, which is also exit and escape door, is fire or arson proof, which is not the case with the unprotected letterplate. This is also the requirement of the Building Regulations 2010 Part B (Fire Safety). For example, providing fire-resisting flat entrance doors in HMO's (Houses in Multiple Occupation) is essential to protect common corridors, lobbies and stairways.
Therefore, there was a need of an all-embracing technical innovation in the letter box, with the potential for large roll-out. It had to be a low cost value for money all-in-one solution that would not require door replacement, work maintenance-free and fit into existing method of mail delivery through the traditional letterplate.
Note 21.18.1 of SBD (Secured By Design Police initiative) New Homes 2010 says that the police service is currently exploring the creation of a new attack test standard/guide for letterplates and letter boxes with partner organisations with similar interests and that the SBD requirement will be updated upon completion of a standard/guide.
In 2012 the Door & Hardware Federation (DHF) in association with Secured By Design issued a new Technical Specifications for letterboxes - TS008:2012 and TS009:2012. The participating organisations were Exova warringtonfire, Warrington Certification Limited, British Standards Institute (BSI), ACPO Secured By Design, ASSA ABLOY UK Ltd, DAD Group and UK Expert to CEN/TC 331/WG5 (anonymous).
According to DAD Managing Director  'the need for the new specs arose when the Association of Chief Police Officers and SBD began to express concern about the security of mailboxes, particularly with regards to identity theft.’ He went on to say that ‘No standard existed in the UK for mailboxes, and manufacturers were forced to test boxes against PAS 24 – the burglary resistance standard for entrance doors. Clearly a mailbox was not going to be able to withstand a test designed to be carried out on a complete door set in its frame.’
As the mailboxes manufactured by DAD UK 'clearly were struggling to pass this test', issuing a new Technical Specifications for letterboxes TS008:2012 and TS009:2012 presented DAD UK with the opportunity to bypass PAS 24. Obviously DAD UK became the first manufacturer to launch a mailbox, which was complying with the new specifications, which the company itself was behind and which suited its manufacturing capability.
Another participant ASSA ABLOY UK Ltd benefited from promoting its own manufactured locks, whereas the remaining participants benefited too from being engaged in their side of business - testing, certification and drafting the new specifications.
This situation gives rise to a number of questions about the circumstances of issuing a new Technical Specifications with one of them why no standard exists in the UK for letter/mail boxes that would address the vital issues of security, energy saving, and environmental issues of a property and the occupants.
On the positive side the new Technical Specifications for letterboxes included for the first time an attempt to assess a letter and mail box product against potential arson attack. However the value of the included tests for letter and mail box resistance against arson is limited since the tests method is based on pouring of a surprisingly small volume 100ml of petrol. Clearly testing with this small volume does not address the risk of the real world accidents where litres of diverse inflammables can be poured in. The letter and mail box products tested in this way would not be suitable for fire doors and would not be in compliance with RRO and Building Regulations since low-security letter box product is nonsense. Imagine what would happen if a low-security letter box product is fitted to a fire rated door. There is no debate on the fact that you either get a fire rated door or you don't.
Surprisingly the new principle for letter/mail box design developed in the UK and patented a number of years earlier where any volume of any liquid is pushed out from the letter/mail box by the force of gravity  was totally ignored when these specifications were developed.
A number of designs of mailboxes with improved construction and/or security have been patented in recent years, particularly in the United States. In 2001, the USPS first approved designs for locking curbside mailboxes to stem a rise in mail and identity theft. With these secure designs, the incoming mail is placed into a slot or hopper by the mail carrier, where it drops into a secure locked compartment for retrieval by the homeowner (who retains the only key or combination to the lock). Locking mailboxes are typically constructed of heavy-gauge steel or aluminum plate, though some models are made of roto-moulded polymer plastic.
Because of the increased risk of vandalism to curbside mailboxes, various vandal-resistant boxes made of composite plastic or heavy-gauge steel or aluminum plate have also entered the market. Some composite mailboxes made of resilient polymer plastics and mounted on ground spikes can withstand severe impacts from baseball bats or even being run over by a vehicle.
In 1978, steady increases in postal service costs caused the USPS to insist on either curbside or centralized mail delivery for new suburban neighborhoods and developments. A 1995 cost delivery study published in a USPS Operations handbook listed per-address annual delivery costs as: Door-to-door, $243; Curbside, $154; Cluster Box (centralized mail delivery), $106.
With centralized mail delivery, a central community mail station consisting of multiple mailboxes is located within or near a building or in a particular neighborhood. Known variously as group mailboxes, cluster mailboxes, or community mail stations, these mailboxes are often used in newer construction in place of door-to-door or curbside mailbox delivery.
In Canada the community mailboxes (or Supermailboxes) appeared in the late 1980s in newer suburban areas. Newer developments usually are temporarily supplied with green rural community mail boxes and replaced later with permanent supermailboxes.
Since 2004, many rural Canadian residents have been required to use community mail stations (known as a Community Mail Box, or CMB) instead of individual curbside mailboxes in an attempt to reduce health and safety complaints by Canada Post rural mail carriers. This change has been extended to some suburban areas of the country as well.
In the U.S., a property with a single mailing address but with multiple mail recipients may utilize a community mail station designated CBU, or Cluster Box Unit. CBUs are typically stand-alone units that have locked individual compartments each tenant in an apartment building, a trailer or mobile home park, or an office center.
In recent years, the USPS has insisted upon centralized mail delivery in virtually all newly constructed residential housing developments, condominiums, and gated communities by requiring or incentivizing the builder or developer to install larger NDCBU (Neighborhood Delivery Collection Box Unit) stations. CBUs and NDCBUs are both commonly known as cluster mailboxes. The NDCBU is a centralized community mail station with compartments for the centralized delivery of mail to multiple recipients at multiple addresses within a single neighborhood development or community. In new housing developments, the NDCBU location is fixed by the developer, not the USPS, and may be located hundreds of yards away from the addressee's actual residence. A parcel locker for receipt of packages and a separate compartment for outgoing mail are usually built into the station. The mail carrier will have a key to a large door on one side that reaches all the compartments, and the residents or tenants will each have a key to the door into their individual compartment on the other side. The location of the NDCBU in a community or business center is extremely important, since neighborhood cluster box installations located in remote or poorly-lighted areas invite large-scale mail theft or vandalism. Even when located in a high-traffic location or inside a gated community, the NDCBU is a tempting target for thieves attracted by the possibility of recovering checks, cash, identifying information, or other valuables from multiple victims. A 2008 RAND Corporation study, citing USPS statistics collected between 2004–2007, found that NDCBU thefts constituted 52.7% of all U.S. urban neighborhood mail thefts and 76.6% of all rural neighborhood mail thefts from locations with more than one mailbox, with higher-income zip code zones having a substantially higher number of thefts than low-income zip code zones.
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- Lisaius, Som, Mail thieves hit Sierra Vista mobile home park, KOLD News, 10 January 2012, retrieved 23 January 2012
- Roseville Patch Staff, Crime Watch: Gas Siphoning, Vandalized Cars, Mailboxes, The Roseville Patch, retrieved 23 January 2012
- Mailbox Break-in and Theft of Mail, City of Vancouver, Washington, retrieved 23 January 2012
- Auslander, Jason, Police Charge Man in String of Mailbox Break-ins, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 30 July 2009
- Hamer, Roger, and Smollen, Gary, Cluster Crime In Council Bluffs, Channel 6 News, 6 October 2011, retrieved 23 January 2012
- Rosenberg, Katherine, Thieves steal mail from 130 Phelan households and 18 cluster mailboxes, Victorville Daily Press, 4 January 2006
- Postal Employee Network, CBU Theft Photo, Phelan, CA, 4 January 2006, retrieved 23 January 2012
- Cluster Mailbox Burglary Prompts Investigation, The Orlando Sentinel, 29 May 2004
- City of Ventura, California, Home & Neighborhood Safety: Cluster Mailboxes, retrieved 23 January 2012: "Cluster mailboxes are those that house mail receptacles for several residences...They make particularly attractive targets for thieves, as once the back of the box is breached, all of the individual sections become accessible and mail from many households can be taken in a very short period of time."
- Arata Jr., Michael J., Identity Theft For Dummies, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc., ISBN 978-0-470-56521-6 (2010), pp. 10-11
- Davis, Lois M., et al., The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security: Implications of Proposed Relaxation of the Mailbox Monopoly, Washington, D.C.: United States Postal Service/RAND Corporation, ISBN 978-0-8330-4615-4 (2008)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mailboxes.|
- Direct marketing
- House numbering
- Mail chute
- mail bag
- mail pouch
- mail sack
- mail satchel
- Mailbox baseball
- Pillar box
- Post box