Forum Photos by Michael V. Cusenza
City Councilman Eric Ulrich congratulates Rabbi Harry Berkowitz on his retirement.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Police on Tuesday counseled area residents about how they should send parcels after the latest incidents of mail theft in the 106th Precinct indicate that crooks have seemingly moved on from “fishing” personal checks out of blue U.S. Postal Service collection boxes.
As The Forum reported in last week’s edition, thieves recently pilfered two personal checks from a new high-security mailbox located just a few steps from the front door to the Howard Beach Post Office on Cross Bay Boulevard and 161st Avenue. The checks, which the victim said were originally made out to the amounts of $50 and $3,000, had been manipulated to the tune of $5,000 and $9,800, respectively.
The USPS has been replacing the old model mailboxes with the new high-security collection boxes which feature a slit affixed at the top, making them virtually fishing-proof. Where resourceful perpetrators used to “fish” envelopes containing checks and sensitive documents out of curbside mailboxes 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—they’re now getting their hands on the special keys that open the new blue boxes.
“It’s a large, citywide pattern; not exclusive to this area,” Deputy Inspector Brian Bohannon, the 106th Precinct’s commanding officer, said on Tuesday evening during the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic meeting. “The resources of the Postal Police and the NYPD are working in conjunction on this ongoing investigation.”
Bohannon added that boxes in Ozone Park and South Ozone Park have also been hit in similar fashion. However, he specifically warned residents in attendance at St. Helen Catholic Academy to steer clear of the collection box outside the Howard Beach Post Office.
“I would not put my mail in that mailbox,” he said. “That box has been compromised a number of times.”
Also on Tuesday, the civic and area elected officials celebrated the life and work of Rabbi Harry Berkowitz, leader of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach, as he retires this year.
“What a partner you have been, for both religious and civic groups,” said Civic President Joann Ariola Shanks.
“I’ve learned a lot from the rabbi,” said the Rev. Francis Colamaria, pastor of St. Helen, before telling Berkowitz, “You’ve been a great friend.”