Courtesy of NYPD
By Michael V. Cusenza
A Queens congresswoman fed up with fielding complaints from constituents regarding mail service, or lack thereof, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Postal Service urging it to replace all collection boxes in the borough with new anti-theft models featuring smaller slots in order to combat “mail fishing,” a growing federal crime in which envelopes containing checks and sensitive documents are “fished out” of mailboxes by resourceful crooks using a makeshift rod: an adhesive attached to the end of a string or rope.
The perpetrators then cash in at banks or check-cashing establishments through various deceitful methods.
Fishing recently cost one of Meng’s constituents $4,000.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that Queens residents cannot safely leave their mail in USPS collection boxes due to the danger of mail fishing, which can result in identity theft and bank fraud,” Meng said. “Many of the victims of mail fishing are seniors who are particularly vulnerable to these reprehensible schemes and have no means of protecting themselves. USPS must act at once to stop this unconscionable crime. The agency must replace all collection boxes in Queens with anti-theft collection boxes to prevent continued mail fishing in our borough.”
Meng, in her letter to USPS Triboro District Manager Elvin Mercado, noted that fishing has become so prevalent that local police precincts have suggested that residents bring their mail directly to the post office and not leave it in local collection boxes for any amount of time.
“This is not an acceptable solution. Many post offices in my district have limited hours, and residents cannot drop off mail when post offices are closed. This also creates a significant barrier for seniors and disabled persons in my district who have issues with mobility,” Meng wrote. “My constituents need the USPS to provide relief, including, but not limited to, replacing all old USPS collection boxes with anti-theft collection boxes.”
A spokesman told The Forum this week that the Postal Service is tackling the fishing issue.
“We share the concerns Congresswoman Meng described in her correspondence. Criminal activity at the collection box victimizes the Postal Service and our customers,” Xavier Hernandez said. “Many arrests have been made and law enforcement in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the NYPD recently collaborated in a public information campaign to help protect New Yorkers from this type of crime. Additionally, District Manager Elvin Mercado is working with his staff to ensure that collection boxes in Queens are safe for all customers to use and they are rolling out anti-theft collection boxes in the area on a daily basis.”
Hernandez also said that if any criminal activity is suspected, the public is encouraged to contact Postal Inspectors at (877) 876-2455.