SEATAC, Wash. – A councilman by day, superhero by night. Neighbors said Peter Kwon is saving his neighborhood from identify theft one mailbox at a time.
The councilman said he first noticed mail theft was a problem in his community while on his morning runs.
“I would find all of this mail on the streets and when I realized they belonged to my neighbors, I delivered them and they told me that [people] would steal mail all the time and toss bills and stuff in the street,” he said. “That’s when I realized mail theft was a really big problem in my neighborhood.”
Kwon said he asked many of them why they didn’t replace their traditional mailbox with a locking mailbox, and often the reply was because of the cost. “They are too expensive,” he said.
Kwon said he researched locking mailboxes and found a local company, EPOCH Design, makers of the Mail Boss.
“They have mailboxes similar to this one,” he said, talking about other locking mailbox manufacturers, “but they are very easy to break into.”
Kwon said he called EPOCH Design and asked if could offer him a bulk discount, if he ordered several at a time. He said the company told him, he would need to buy at least 30.
Kwon said he bought 30 to begin with, and started selling them back to his neighbors at cost, not making a dime. When neighbors struggled to install the heavy boxes, he helped them. Pretty soon, he said, word of mouth had his phone ringing off the hook.
“Over 250 mailboxes have been installed in this area, none of them have been broken into so far,” he said. “I wanted to remove all those barriers and give people no excuse to get a locking mailbox in order to reduce mail theft.”
“They say you can’t break into them and they couldn’t, but they sure did damage the box,” said Jo Ann Hill, a SeaTac neighbor. Hill bought her Mail Boss on her own, but after vandals tried to break in, she called Kwon for help.
“He said, ‘What happened?’ and I told him,” she said. Kwon said he would come out and look at her mailbox for free, despite it being over the holidays.
“He showed up anyway, he gets the mailbox off, repaired the whole thing and brought it back and put it back on, on Christmas day,” said Hill. “He’s not your typical politician. He’s probably one of the most honest, decent people you will ever meet.”
For every mailbox installed or fixed, Kwon sticks a large red heart on the face of the box. He said it’s a calling card to thieves, not to bother.
“If thieves can identify these boxes they won’t even try to break into them,” he said.
Kwon said he is hoping by sharing his story, others will do the same for their neighborhoods. “I would like to see other neighborhoods and communities start something like this. It’s very easy to do. You just need to call this company and say, ‘I would like to buy 30 mailboxes’ and they’ll get the deal.”