Pictures of Locked Mailboxes Circulate on Twitter Amid USPS Crisis

Social media users are sharing pictures of locked mailboxes, appearing to lend credence to fears that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is being undermined ahead of the presidential election.

However, there are doubts about whether or not some of the pictures circulating on platforms like Twitter are contemporaneous.

Meanwhile, others have noted that the practice isn't new and that locked mailboxes are not a nefarious attempt to suppress mail-in voting—but to prevent mail theft.

Ricky Davila was among those who shared pictures of locked mailboxes. Davila said they were spotted in Burbank, California, adding that President Donald Trump's postmaster general Louis DeJoy and the Republican Party were "the enemy of the Unites States."

Locked Mailboxes have been spotted in Burbank, California. Louis DeJoy, the GOP, the MAGA are the enemy of the United States.

— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) August 17, 2020

There's enough misinformation being spread in the world & I want to clear it up where I can. Here's an article showing that this concern goes back years in this area:

— Ronni Peck - Think Too Much Mom (@thinktoomuchmom) August 17, 2020

Another Twitter user, Ronni Peck, responded to his tweet saying that mailboxes in Burbank were locked on Sundays and after hours to prevent mail theft.

"This is MY post office! Let me clear this up in case you haven't heard it yet: This Burbank post office has been locking up its mail boxes on Sundays/after hours for MONTHS because of theft," Peck wrote in a tweet on her own account. "This is NOT an election thing."

I just drove there. There was a guy taking photos because he saw the inaccurate post on Twitter. I showed him that there were slots on the other side (I have no idea why I called them holes like english was my 13th language).

— haunted dog (@zandywithaz) August 17, 2020

She also shared a 2016 article from the Los Angeles Daily News, which reported that officials in the San Fernando Valley had been retrofitting mailboxes to make them tamper proof due to a rise in mail theft.

One method was the fitting of red locking caps like the ones seen in Davila's picture, while another method was to weld the drop-down door of boxes and replace them with a single slot so letters can be pushed in one at a time.

Another Twitter user noted that the mailboxes in Burbank had slots that were open on the other side, so mail could still be deposited.

"This is my post office. These mailboxes are open on the other side, you just have to get out of your car to mail them. It's been this way for months. This isn't part of the purge," the user wrote.

From Seattle, WA. The Postmaster bowed to pressure and said no more mailboxes would be removed. But now they've done this instead. - This lock is obviously specifically designed for a mailbox. It wouldn't fit anything else. How long has this plot been underway??

— jvharris_1965 (@jvharris_1965) August 16, 2020

Before you freak out about locked USPS boxes, here is a pic I took of the same thing on February 17th, 2020 outside the North Hollywood post office after hours. Don’t know if it’s more widespread now but it’s nothing new.

— Jonathan Badeen (@badeen) August 16, 2020

Another Twitter user shared a picture of a locked mailbox from Seattle, Washington, writing alongside it: "This lock is obviously specifically designed for a mailbox. It wouldn't fit anything else. How long has this plot been underway??"

Jonathan Badeen, a co-founder of the dating app Tinder, responded to the tweet, writing: "They've been using these for a while. I encountered one while trying mail something in February. Considering I go years between mailing with the USPS I was surprised but they do this after hours (presumably at their more questionable locations)."

In another tweet alongside a picture of a locked mailbox, Badeen added: "Before you freak out about locked USPS boxes, here is a pic I took of the same thing on February 17th, 2020 outside the North Hollywood post office after hours. Don't know if it's more widespread now but it's nothing new."

A spokesperson for the USPS confirmed to Newsweek that the locks seen in the pictures circulating on social media are anti-theft devices.

"The use of Collection Box Anti-theft locking devices, such as at the Burbank Post Office, have been in place since approximately 2016 and this device was developed as a mail theft deterrent," they said.

"Offices that have had issues of fishing attacks are provided with the devices. The device is placed on the box after the last collection of the day and removed at the start of the new business day. On the back of collection boxes, there is an opening that customers can use to deposit letter mail into the collection box."

Despite not being a new practice, the pictures highlight a growing concern about mail-in voting amid the crisis at the USPS, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing on Sunday that she is calling the House back into session early over the issue.

DeJoy, who was appointed Postmaster General in June, has sparked a nationwide outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks to the postal service that indicate it won't be able to handle the millions of ballots expected to be mailed in for November's election so voters can avoid polling places and limit the spread of coronavirus.

mail box
Mailboxes sit in front of a United States Postal Service facility on August 13, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Trump, who has baselessly claimed mail-in voting leads to fraud, is facing accusations that the sweeping changes are part of a larger plot to "sabotage" the USPS ahead of the election.

"Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president," Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues on Sunday.

"Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the President's campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,"

She said DeJoy was "one of the top Trump mega-donors" and "has proven a complicit crony as he continues to push forward sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and – according to the Postal Service itself – threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion."

She added: "In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central. Americans should not have to choose between their health and their vote.

This article has been updated with comments from the USPS.