USPS Investigates Loss of Cluster Mailboxes Key
TUESDAY - APRIL 26, 2011 - NAPA, CA - The United States Postal Service is investigating the loss of a key which unlocks cluster mailboxes. J.L. Sousa/Register J.L. Sousa

The Napa post office is under investigation for the reported loss of a master key mail carriers use to open cluster and apartment mailboxes, the U.S. Postal Service confirmed Friday.

Napa postal officials reported the loss of the key as occurring within the past 30 days, Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch said.

“We are investigating,” said Fitch, who is based in Richmond. “It’s a serious issue.”

Fitch did not rule out that additional keys are missing. “That would be part of the investigation,” he said.

Napa Postmaster Hank Williams declined comment, referring all questions to the U.S. Postal Service spokesman.

Fitch said there have been no reports of mail theft from any of the affected boxes — or “delivery points.” According to Napa Police, only three cases of mail theft have been reported in the city of Napa since 2010. That includes mail stolen from a community box in May 2010, Napa Police Sgt. Mike Hensley said.

The missing key, known in postal parlance as an “Arrow Key,” only opens a certain number of Napa boxes, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

“It does not open everything,” Fitch said.

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For security reasons, Fitch declined to say the number — and location — of  the affected mailboxes.

Cluster boxes are used in many new neighborhoods and business parks. They’re considered secure and efficient, Fitch said.

It is unclear if the locks on the affected mailboxes have been changed. Fitch said that for security reasons, the U.S. Postal Service does not announce when it changes the locks used by carriers. Customers can still use their old keys.

The repercussions for the person responsible for the key loss are also unclear. That is a Human Resources matter, Fitch said.

A mail carrier union representative could not be reached for comment.

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