By Tim McNicholas

PARK RIDGE (CBS) — The U.S. Postal Service is replacing a blue mail drop box in Park Ridge after CBS 2 discovered mail poking out through the rust–exposed to the elements and whatever else.

Melissa Poindexter first spotted the exposed mail last Wednesday.

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Mail was exposed at the based of this rusted mail box in Park Ridge. (CBS)

“Whether it be a bill, whether it be a sympathy card, it’s all important information so the fact that it’s now potentially damaged, it’s not gonna get there, there’s lot of risks.” Poindexter said. “It had just rained so it was also wet.”

A worker removes the damaged mail box in Park Ridge. (CBS)

And that’s just the latest postal problem.

Federal court records say someone stole mail from those same blue boxes outside the post office six times in the past four months. However, they didn’t pull it through the rust—a thief used either an authentic or counterfeit postal key in each case.

“Just makes me again nervous about the security at the post office.” Poindexter said.

A year ago, the postal service inspector general released a report saying USPS does not do a good enough job protecting those keys or keeping track of how many are lost or stolen.

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“It was troubling, and almost predictive of what happened in Chicago perhaps.” Kevin Kosar, of the American Enterprise Institute, said. Kosar has studied the postal service for more than a decade.

“They have very tight rules and very lengthy procedures, about how these keys are supposed to be handled and maintain, but if you don’t follow them all the time, as the report indicated you’re going to have problems.” Kosar said.

Last week, postal inspectors arrested a man who is suspected of at least one of the thefts from the blue box. But court records don’t say how he or anyone else could have gotten a postal key—and Park Ridge police say he is not a postal employee.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’re using arrow keys,” said Frank Albergo, president of Postal Police Officers Association, adding that one of those keys can be used to open blue boxes all over a zip code. “The postal service is exploring chips, they’re exploring all different safeguards but currently there are no safeguards. It’s very easy to counterfeit a key.”

Days before that arrest, CBS reported on a pattern of mail theft and check fraud in Park Ridge. 

Multiple victims had the names or even the dollar amounts on their checks altered after they mailed them.

But that report wasn’t enough to get the Park Ridge post office to secure their collection boxes days later.

“Well that’s just negligence,” Albergo said.

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The postal service sent a statement saying they take mail security very seriously and urged customers to report problems immediately.

Tim McNicholas