Criminal damage and thefts from Kingwood’ cluster mailboxes became the major topic of discussion at the Kingwood Services Association (KSA) Public Safety meeting Jan. 12.
It began with a single question following the routine monthly crime reports presented by the Houston Police Department (HPD) Kingwood Station for November and December. The reports themselves were routine but, to at least one committee member, there seemed to be information missing about incidents concerning mailboxes in Mills Branch.
“We’ve had break-ins in our mailboxes again in Mills Branch Village. We had three in December. We’ve had an additional three just last weekend. Were those in the crime stats or were they even reported?” asked David Miniter of Mills Branch.
HPD Officer Ayaht Nichols explained she did not remember any reports regarding Mills Branch, even though there were criminal mischief reports about cluster mailboxes located in Kings Point Village.
“I spoke with Ray (Rhodes, the Kings Point committee member) earlier today in regard to their mailboxes,” Nichols said. She asked Miniter if the Mills Branch Village Homeowners Association (HOA) owns the mailboxes in its neighborhoods.
“Yes, we do,” Miniter said. They are cluster mailboxes and Mills Branch Village is responsible for maintaining them because they are not individual stand-alone mailboxes owned by the residents. Nichols explained since the HOA owned the boxes, the damage done to them should be reported and is usually classified as criminal mischief. However, any thefts or unauthorized use of the residents’ individual boxes in the cluster would go to the U.S. Postal Service for investigation. Nichols pointed out even though both single resident mailboxes and cluster mailboxes are bought and installed by residents, their HOAs or the property owner in the case of apartments, they are all considered to be federal property for purposes of reporting and investigating mail theft from them.
Miniter pointed out he and probably others learn of damage done to the cluster boxes themselves long after the damage occurs and often through nonspecific comments on social media, like nextdoor.com. He surmised delays in damage discovery and no specific recognition of the crimes when they occur may account for under reporting to HPD. It also raises the issue of who, if anyone, is reporting possible theft to the U.S. Postal Service for investigation.
Chairman Marshall Settegast asked Nichols if the Safety Committee could get some paperwork started with the HPD in the next few days to report and specify any cluster boxes they know of that have been vandalized in the past.
“Sure, absolutely, once you have that information,” Nichols said. She added that Ray Rhodes had gathered all of the documentation on when the criminal mischief took place in Kings Point and was planning to meet with HPD to formally report them.
“He is coming in tomorrow morning to file his reports,” Nichols said. She clarified that a separate report is needed for each mailbox actually damaged in a cluster unless they all happened on the same day.
Settegast suggested the committee members check with their HOAs immediately in order to get the reports to the HPD as soon as possible.
The discussion about reporting damage raised the issue of repairing the damage and who absorbs the cost. Since the cluster units are owned by the HOAs, it is clearly an HOA responsibility to maintain and repair them as needed. Ethel McCormick of Kingwood Association Management, the administrative services company for many of the Kingwood HOAs and for KSA itself, said she has coincidentally been pursuing this issue from an insurance coverage standpoint as repairs and maintenance when needed for any reason are often significant.
“I have been in contact with our insurance agent and if we are required to purchase the mailboxes, we can put them under our property coverage per each association,” McCormick said. She explained it will be covered under the general liability and property coverage provisions already in place for each Village’s HOA where ever cluster mailboxes are used. In order to get that done, at the insurance agent’s request, McCormick explained she is compiling the needed information about which specific HOAs have cluster mailbox units, along with their locations, which will require coverage. She noted there are actually more associations that have individual mailboxes owned by their residents than there are those with cluster mailboxes. Settegast asked her to confirm that this would be handled through KSA within the common insurance provision used by all the HOAs. McCormick said that it would be handled that way.
In other business: Dustin Hodges of Dave Martin’s city council office reported cleanup trucks are well into sweeping through the areas impacted by the Jan. 8 early morning tornadoes in Forest Cove and Trailwood. He urged everyone who had not yet called the Houston 311 non emergency number to request debris pickup to do so as soon as possible. He pointed out that not all the debris could be collected and put out for pickup within the first 48 hours, especially in the hardest hit area of Forest Cove.
“We fully understand there may be a need for additional collections. Nobody needs to feel like they can’t report it. Keep reporting it. That makes it easier for us to get it taken care of, using the calls to justify the need for additional debris sweeps,” Hodges said.
The final order of business was to elect the committee’s officers for 2022. By acclimation, Marshall Settegast of Mills Branch Village will continue as chairman. Dave Lambrix of South Woodland Hills will serve as vice chairman.
The next Public Safety Committee Meeting is Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend. Due to Covid-19, it will take place as a Zoom teleconference. Those planning to attend should call the Kingwood Association Management office at 281-358-5192 a day or two prior to the meeting to obtain teleconference credentials.