A postal carrier in Richmond was pepper sprayed and robbed of his mailbox keys by two thieves in a brazen daylight attack on Wednesday morning.

During the attack, the thieves cut off the lanyard which attached the mailbox keys to his uniform, and took off in a vehicle.

The mail carrier was not seriously injured.

Canada Post says no mail was stolen and the area's mailboxes were re-keyed within two hours of the attack.

"We were able to rekey all the furniture that these keys open within two hours, and the same thing happened in Burnaby, so there was no risk to the mail," said Lillian Au.

Au was referring to a similar theft that took place in Burnaby last week when a postal carrier was pepper sprayed and robbed.

Valerie MacLean of the B.C. Crime Prevention Association said Canada Post should be looking at different ways to protect the keys.

"What they should do is keep the keys out of sight. They (should be in) a fanny pack, in a way in which someone rushing by you, or knocking you down or pepper spraying you, can't get those keys," said Valerie MacLean of the B.C. Crime Prevention Association.

But Canada Post has not had recurring problems with the way postal carriers carry keys, Au says, and the thieves would have a difficult time finding the mailboxes that match the carrier's keys.

"It's like finding a needle in a hay stack, to try to find the match to where these keys will open, so we don't know why these thieves would want to target our keys," she said.

Canada Post says using a bag such as a fanny pack for the carriers' keys could actually make the problem worse.

"Putting (the keys) in a fanny pack doesn't make sense because it would probably escalate the situation," said Au. "The thief would probably want to hold up the letter carrier, so we don't want to see that happen."

In February, police seized mailbox keys and thousands of items of stolen mail when they broke a massive identity theft ring in Surrey.

Signs to watch for in the case of identity theft:

  • bills or regular mail suddenly stops arriving
  • unfamiliar charges on credit cards or in bank accounts
  • calls from collection agencies about unknown charges

With reports from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson and Maria Weisgarber