By Jessica Brockington

Thieves have been fishing for mail on the Upper West Side — and they recently landed a big one.

Police in the 24th Precinct report that a crime trending in Queens last summer has come to the UWS, specifically to mailboxes at 94th St. and Columbus Ave., 93rd St. and Amsterdam Ave., 93rd St. and Broadway, and 104th St. and Broadway.

A milk carton, flattened, filled with a layer of cement, covered in glue, and hung on a string, can, according to police, slip down into one of the blue US Postal Service mailboxes, past the back of the mailbox door specifically designed to keep hands and arms out.

Jiggled up and down, these glue traps stick to any envelop underneath them. At the beginning of any month, those envelopes might include rent checks, credit card or utility payments, and they are at risk of being fraudulently cashed by thieves.

Five instances have been identified between October 29th and December 23rd of last year and police have been warning neighbors to either take their mail directly to the Post Office, or pay their bills electronically. In one of the incidences, thieves swiped a $31,755 commercial rent check, according to NYPD. Even though the incidents occurred last year, NYPD is treating this as an ongoing concern and it’s an active investigation.

Police Officer Guzman is the crime prevention officer spearheading this public awareness campaign, but anyone witnessing criminal mischief at a USPS mailbox should call 911 immediately.

Photo by Arwen Willemsen (cropped).

NEWS | 25 comments | permalink
    1. Eli says:

      I would think that this would be the jurisdiction of the postal inspectors — after all, tampering with the mail is a FEDERAL crime!

    2. Lucien says:

      This has been done for years and years. It is general knowledge to drop off the mail inside the post office itself unless it’s something you don’t care getting stolen. It still is a good reminder though!

    3. Liz says:

      Surpised this is such a problem. Banks make it diffulcult to deposit or cash checks not made out to the individual.

    4. Edie Colfax says:

      Welcome to New York City, they’ve been doing this for years.

    5. Woody says:

      It’s not clear whether any checks were actually either cashed or deposited. All it says is that there might be some checks and that there were five instances of something happening. Sloppy reporting.

    6. Trevor says:

      Sigh. I use one of those mailboxes regularly.

    7. JIM says:

      Good thing benefit cards are electronic or de Blasio would have to get involved.

    8. Upper West Side Wally says:

      It has never been easier to deposit a check in the bank – anyone with a smart phone can do it in a minute.
      But third party checks depositing/cashing are and remain slow due to … mail fishing.

    9. Sean says:

      Not if you’re 80.

    10. ron shapley says:

      Not too concerned. Who uses the US Mail anymore ?? All they’re getting are LL Bean Catalogues and ConEd bills….:-)

    11. Sean says:

      Old people do.

    12. lynn says:

      You’re on a roll today Sean, lol. 😉

    13. Bonnie Rice says:

      Sounds like a case for the FBI….or Superman!

    14. Ted says:

      Wow, my mother in Omaha is going to be shocked when she hears this. Now she will know what happened to all the birthday cards, mother’s day cards and holiday cards from me that have disappeared through the years. Shocking that this kind of miscreant criminal activity has been to blame all this time.

    15. Joan says:

      Why are you providing instructions on how to “fish”?

    16. Sean says:

      The more you know.

    17. Paula says:

      After a banking class lesson long, long ago, I always write on the back of any check being mailed: “For deposit only, without recourse.” The first part is obvious. The second part assures that if a bank cashes the check to anyone other than the intended, the bank has fiscal responsibility, otherwise, the check writer does.

    18. susan says:

      a check i mailed in december never arrived at its destination. i believe that in this case it was stolen at the delivery end. nevertheless, it was used to create counterfeit checks for my account. the thieves succeeded in cashing 67 checks – with no attempt to forge my signature. it seems that most of them were deposited at atm’s and then the cash was withdrawn the same or next day. the stolen check was never cashed!

    19. LA says:

      ny rent check was stolen. It was cashed.

    20. LA says:

      And they used mobile deposit to cash the check….dropped off at 79th st blue box.

    21. Toni says:

      Why is the West Side Rag telling people exactly how they can perpetrate this crime??

    22. Upper West Side Wally says:

      Your assumption that older people are less intelligent or less techno-savvy is offensive.

    23. bystander says:

      Thanks, Mayor de Bloozio. If only the police could run up the city’s legal fees by millions violating people’s Fourth Amendment rights, none of these mail fishing scams would be going on.

    24. Sean says:

      These mailboxes pictured are a relics of a time long gone by. You might as well put your letter on the curb. They are that secure. Instead, take your letter directly to a Post Office.

    25. ORIN KOTULA says:

      I have been using the mailbox at Columbus/ 94-95 for decades to mail rent and storage locker fee. MY RENT CHECKS AND STORAGE LOCKER CHECKS FOR FEBRUARY AND MARCH HAVE NOT BEEN DELIVERED , NOR A SMALL CHECK MAILED THIS WEEK.