Thieves use these sticky bottle devices to “fish” valuable mail from blue collection boxes.
By Michael V. Cusenza
City cops arrested at least eight people in Manhattan over a two-week period in March in seemingly unrelated incidents of “mailbox fishing,” according to the Police Department.
At last Tuesday’s Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic meeting, Capt. Michael Edmonds, executive officer of the 106th Precinct, noted that “fishing” has once again reared its ugly head in the command with four recently reported cases: 151st Avenue and 84th Street (two incidents); 160th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard; and Linden Boulevard and 95th Avenue.
The recent prolific surge highlights “the ubiquity of this crime in New York City,” according to the NYPD.
“Mailbox fishing” is a federal crime in which envelopes containing checks and sensitive documents are “fished out” of blue curbside U.S. Postal Service collection boxes by resourceful crooks using a makeshift rod: an adhesive slathered all over a weighted 16 ounce-20 ounce bottle attached to the end of a string or rope. Perpetrators then cash in at banks or check-cashing establishments through various document-manipulation methods.
“It’s affecting the whole city, and unlike many other crimes, victims may not be learning about it for weeks or even months, and by then it’s too late,” said Deputy Inspector Reymundo Mundo, commanding officer of the 34th Precinct. “We’re using every tool we can to address this problem,
but we need the public to be proactive, too.”
According to police reports, on Wednesday, March 7, officers assigned to Manhattan’s 34th Precinct responded to a call of someone tampering with a mailbox. When the cops arrived on the scene, they spotted a man positioned in front of a mailbox with several others acting as lookouts, all matching the descriptions provided by callers. One of the men was found to have a piece of mail in his pocket, while a fishing apparatus had been dropped down the chute.
Then, on Thursday, March 15, Manhattan officers responded to another call of a mailbox fishing crime in progress. Upon their arrival, they saw a man dropping an apparatus into the mailbox before fleeing the scene. The cops gave chase, successfully arresting the perpetrator.
On Monday, March 19, 34th Precinct officers arrested four people in possession of a glue mouse trap attached to a bottle, as well as three checks. The following day, two patrol officers responded to a call of fishing but found no one in the vicinity of the Manhattan mailbox. They searched the area and spotted two men who matched the description, and as they pulled up beside them, they saw one of the men discard a piece of mail. Upon further investigation, the cops discovered a fishing device and more materials, and placed them under arrest.
For help protecting your identity from mail fishing, visit nypdnews.com/2017/12/protecting-identity-mail-fishing-check-washing/.