Stop! Letterbox Thief!

Some horrid person nicked the brass plate cover of our letterbox on Friday morning.

This is what it looked like before

We reported it at the Pinelands Police Station this morning, leaving our contact details and these two ‘before and after’ photographs. (See, sometimes there’s an advantage to taking so many photos!)

When the friendly policeman at the Community Service Office asked whether we wanted to open a case docket – or whether we merely wanted to report it, I said the latter would probably suffice.

Opening a case apparently means that a detective would be allocated to come out and investigate the case, which could at some stage go to court. Hm, yeah, really? Actually, I suspect that this is only the theory, not the practice, as they have far more important things to do than investigating stolen letter boxes!

I just want it to become part of the crime statistics for the area; however, the policeman was rather vague on that score, so it’s possible that my information was just File 13’d, as soon as we left. Perhaps I should follow up in a couple of days?

Sadly, this is what it looks like now – offering even less protection against the wind and the rain…

Anyway, it’s not as though there is any hope of getting it back, and it is ‘only’ petty crime after all, but I still wanted to report it officially. If we don’t tell the police and each other that these things are happening in our area, the situation will never change, and they cannot motivate for more manpower and patrols if they don’t have accurate crime statistics. Right? Hm. Riiight.

South Africa has a huge problem with theft of copper and non-ferrous metals (we have a huge, thriving and unfortunately corrupt scrap metal industry – informative article here). Tons of ‘scrap’ are being illegally shipped to the East all the time, even though we do have a specialised Metal Theft Unit in our City (they are known as ‘the Copperheads’ because they deal primarily with the epidemic of copper cable theft).

We knew that it was only a matter of time before our letterbox cover was nicked, because even a brief cruise around the neighbouring streets revealed that almost all the houses in our area had had theirs ripped out or broken off too. Brass, copper or aluminium house numbers, conduits, electrical cables, water meters, water pipes and taps – everything metallic seems to be fair game.


Welcome to the far less pleasant side of Sunny South Africa.

To end on a positive note: Do you have any creative suggestions on how we could make our letterbox look nice and pretty again, but without offering any further temptations to dastardly thieves?

22 thoughts on “Stop! Letterbox Thief!

  1. Hi Reggie

    So sorry about your letter box — we noticed a lot of letter boxes that had suffered the same fate when we did the first deliveries of the Muse. We wanted to run an article on it and may still get round to it as we have seen a few alternatives – wood, and lovely mosaics being very popular (see Muse edition 11 September on Annelise Luckhoff).
    Max experienced a funny letterbox situation in Durban more than 20 years ago. The police phoned him and said they had arrested a man walking down the street with a letterbox under his arm. When questioned, he couldn’t explain why there was post addressed to Max Schutte in the post box under his arm!
    Good Luck with your alternative solution.

    • Hi Glynnis – that is such a funny story!

      Yes, wood and mosaics do sound like good alternatives. Plastic might also work as a fairly maintenance-free option, though I’m no big fan. I guess, though, if we make it look toooo pretty, they may just steal that too, though… unless there’s some sort of way of recessing the mosaic right INTO the cement/plaster beneath… Hm… I shall have a look at the September edition; I well remember the article on Annelise’s pretty mosaics.

      Personally, I think it might make a good local-interest article, actually! I wonder what other Pinelanders are doing to fix or prettify their letterboxes?

  2. Its all so IRRITATING isn’t it ? Wood is probably the solution. I agree with you on reporting minor crimes – then at least “they” (the omnipresent “they” in this case SAPs) know about it. Sigh.

    • I know, Alison, it really is. Look, I don’t think there’s ultimately any point in reporting it, because bugger-all will happen, and most likely my ‘report’ was tossed into the bin as soon as I left. I don’t know how things work at our local police station, but I figure they have really serious crimes to deal with, like assaults, robbery, thefts, car hijacking, drugs and alcohol, drag racing, drunken driving… all-pervasive metal theft can’t be all that high up on their list. Nonetheless, the policeman was really decent about it though, and listened in a friendly and polite manner, and that already made me feel better.

  3. Sigh – from here too! Sorry about your letterbox. Stealing metals like copper seems to be a world-wide problem. It’s also common here. Statues and sculpture, outdoor lamps, cables and wires…. you name it.

    • Oh no, really? I thought that Denmark was fairly safe from this… It is such a pity, and so destructive – particularly with lamps, cables, wires, and even statues and sculptures? Agh no… I’m sorry to hear this…

  4. This problem is huge. Since November last year, we have had 2 break-ins and one attempted break in at our shop. We sell plumbing goods and are therefore a prime target for theft of copper and brass. On my way to work I drive past one of our local scrapyards and there is always a queue of people lined up waiting to sell the goods they have stolen during the night, many of them using supermarket trollies to transport their spoils. Clearly the police are unable to deal with the problem. We need to get together as a community and find ways to combat this ourselves. As to crime reporting have a look at

    • Seriously?! Wow, Indigirl, I didn’t realise it was so bad. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had to deal with break-ins; it is an awful, sick, powerless feeling when it happens. Those scrapyards seem to be a law unto themselves.

      Thanks for the link – I see that there is in fact a group already in our neighbourhood. Have you joined one in yours? Is it working?

  5. Sadly our letter box cover was stolen on Sunday evening/early Monday morning. They first stole our brass numbers last year and came back to help themselves to the letter box cover. We are in Somerset West and this type of crime is rampant. We replaced the numbers with ceramic numbers and now have to search high and low to find a ceramic cover to hide this unsightly hole in the wall.

    • Hi Irene, gosh, so it is happening in Somerset West too? It’s so unpleasant. We haven’t replaced our letterbox cover yet, so we still have this big hole in the wall. We haven’t decided whether to replace it with something plastic or ceramic or wood yet, though we’ll probably choose plastic, as it’s cheap, and won’t need any maintenance.

      • Thank you for replying Reggie. I failed to mention that I have another house in Claremont which my daughter is renting from us and she too had her brass cover stolen about a year ago. I will be scouting around flea markets and perhaps some garden nurseries to find something in ceramic to hide this unsightly hole in the wall. Will let you know if I was successful in my endeavours to find a cover that has no value at all, except to keep my mail from being tampered with or wafted on a breeze down the road.

      • Hi Irene, I know, one does need some sort of cover to protect one’s mail against the wind and the rain. I hope you will find something inexpensive and functional, yet nice looking. But not TOO nice-looking either, or it will also be nicked. Good luck!

      • We managed to find a letterbox cover at our local hardware store here in Somerset West. It is made out of fibreglass and they come in a range of colours and paid R165.00 and hopefully this will last for years and years.

  6. I live in Sunset Beach and also had my brass letterbox, brass house numbers and brass knobs on my front gates stolen. I purchased additional brass numbers and have placed it on the upstairs verandah, above our garages, so they will now need a ladder to remove them! I have yet to solve the dilema of the hole in the wall but my investigation into options continues. In the interim I purchased a plastic dumpy letterbox which whilst holding no temptation for would be thieves is not ideal. A bit of an eyesore – but a solution!

    • Hi Tania, oh dear, I’m sorry to hear your suburb has also been targeted. It seems to be such a pervasive problem. I hope that the thieves do not become sufficiently enterprising to bring their own ladders in future! I know those plastic letterboxes – I agree, they don’t exactly look pretty, but at least for now you have a letterbox! I guess the lesson is not to make your property look too pretty or to spend money on beautifying it? I find that quite sad.

  7. Hi Reggie
    Today I found a company that can offer a wonderful if somewhat pricey solution to my letterbox dilema. They are called savy designs (based in Cape Town) and make stainless steel letterplates and letterboxes. View or
    To quote from their email I received:
    They make the front plate as a frame with a flap in the centre to suit the size of the hole (much like our brass letterplates). It would have 5mm diameter pins welded behind the frame which would be drilled and bonded into the wall, making it very difficult to remove. Cost here is app R650 to fabricate & deliver. If you wanted it a bit bigger so you could add the street name / number, the price goes up depending on the size of the plate required.
    Should you require a door for the back, it would be made the same way. Again, the cost depends on the size, but R1276.80 is the price of a 300x400mm door.
    And to bond to the pins in the holes you drill in the wall, you need some chemical mortar, which is supplied in a canister that goes in a silicone gun & you inject it in the drilled holes and it goes hard very fast. This makes it very difficult to remove.
    Sounds wonderful and from the photos I was emailed looks amazing.
    I have ordered mine.

  8. Agree with Richard Tulloch – theft of metals happens all over the world. My brother (in Germany) is renovating a house and says if they leave stuff outside it’s gone within hours. He’s actually wanted to get rid of some old metal stuff – and just needs to put it out on the pavement!

    Having said that, it’s always a shock to the system when somebody invades your property and takes something from you.

    • Yes, quite! It’s a different matter if you intentionally leave items out on rubbish-collection and recycling day… but stealing something and causing damage in the process is indeed quite a shock. We still haven’t figured out a good replacement; those brass letterbox-openings look so nice in the shop, but I know it will be gone within days, if not hours, if we replace it.

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