Mailbox Thefts Continue, With Dozens in Just One Local Precinct

The “mailbox fishing” crime spree has been going strong for about two years now, and it shows no sign of stopping. So far this year, there have been 26 reported incidents of mailbox theft in the 20th precinct, which covers the UWS from 59th to 86th Street.

The crime occurs like this, according to police: Thieves steal envelopes from mailboxes by hanging a glue-covered item like a flattened milk carton on a string and dipping it into the box. When they remove the “fishing rod,” the envelopes come with it. The thieves can then use chemicals to erase the ink on the checks and replace it with new writing.

Police have been unable to stop the continued thefts, despite a joint investigation with the United States Postal Inspection Service and extra surveillance cameras. There are 55 mailboxes in the precinct, too many to watch at all times, Deputy Inspector Levon Holley told us last year. They’re also not entirely convinced that all of the3se thefts are related to mail fishing. Mail can be intercepted at several points before it reaches its destination.

Here are some tips from the Postal Inspection Service (click to enlarge):

NEWS | 35 comments | permalink
    1. AC says:

      A simple and inexpensive fix would be to replace the mailboxes with new anti-theft ones.

    2. drg says:

      “”They’re also not entirely convinced that all of the3se thefts are related to mail fishing.””

      I have not put ANYTHING in the mail for 2+ years…but have had several important pieces of mail lost forever, that I hand delivered to the 95Th and Columbus station. I also had a package of car keys in a padded envelope disappear for 9 months, to show up as a return to sender, ripped to shreds.

      • Mail male says:

        In February 2017, I sent out two packages from the 95th and Columbus post office. Neither package arrived! I know will go to The 83rd street Planetarium post office.

        • WhatsUpDuck says:

          I don’t recommend Planetarium Station, either. They routinely lose packages, claim mail was delivered on days in which mail service was shut down (blizzard, if memory serves, etc.). Ansonia Station is slightly better.

    3. Mark Moore says:

      In a time when I have to change my credit card number about once a year because of rampant digital fraud, it’s kind of quaint to hear about mailbox fishing.

    4. Alan Flacks says:

      1. Deposit mail in the street collection boxes before the last collection? In most cases there is but one collection, usually in the p.m., so that if you depart in the a.m., wadddaya supposed to do? Carry your mail with you until the afternoon? In the 1950s six to eight pick-ups of mail a day. Well, different times today, yet why not have at least two pick-ups, an a.m. and a p.m.? 2. The N.Y.P.D. couldn’t care less. They don’t get medals at City Hall with Hiz Honor and the P.C. present. Just give your mail to the local cop and ask him or her to drop it off in their suburban community upon return home after duty. A friend Drew took his mail to work in Woodbridge, New Jersey, to the P.O. there, and got next day delivery of it in N.Y.C.! Postal inspectors are lazy and too few.

    5. Alan Flacks says:

      Postscriptum. Hey, for those of you residing in multiple dwellings (apartment houses), recall seeing those mail chutes & drops there? The U.S. Postal dis-service discontinued collecting them when Ted Weiss was the local Congressperson. Today, the delivering mail carrier takes the mail from the building and usually drops it in the nearest street collection box most likely after the pick-up time, so there you have it–a day’s delay right away!

    6. MelTer says:


      • EricaC says:

        Sure, if you don’t mind broadcasting your private business to all the teenagers of the world. And if you love emojis.

    7. Marsha Berkowitz says:

      The mailbox on 93rd Street and Broadway no longer has a door opening. It has been replaced with a slot for inserting mail, which thwarts mailbox fishing.

    8. Sean says:

      I have not used a mailbox in a thousand years. Time to move on into the 21st Century people, like it or not. You don’t really have to send a bread and butter note anymore.

      • West88 says:

        I’m probably the most tech savvy person out there, but my landlord is not. So lucky you don’t have to mail a rent check and/or your landlord accepts VENMO or auto withdrawals. For us other 8 million New Yorkers, mailing RENT checks is the only solution. It’s why this has become such an issue b/c on any one day at the end of the month, there’s tens of thousands of dollars in a single mailbox.

        • Sean says:

          It’s the one check that I write each month and if you like your bank can send it out for you.

        • dannyboy says:

          Also, some governments require checks. There’s irony there.

        • RF says:

          Same here. I pay every other bill online, but my landlord will not accept anything other than a check–in fact, the only reason I still order physical checks is to pay my landlord. I have had two of these fished from UWS street mailboxes within in the past year.

          • EricaC says:

            You might check out your bank’s bill online payment function. My bank will send a check to people, like landlords, who don’t take electronic payments, but the check goes straight from the bank.

    9. John says:

      My mail was fished; I had to stop payment on four checks, and then had to close my checking account and open another. I called the post office to ask what they’re going to do about insecure mailboxes — told they’re working on them, but with no results yet in my ‘hood. I take all my mail to the PO. It’s a pain in the ass.

    10. Keith says:

      We sent 50 holiday cards in December 2017, none were received. Dropped in a mailbox on West End.

      • chrigid says:

        My son was thrown off the list for a Mitchell-Lama apartment because the Post Office never delivered the offer.

      • DT says:

        So did I! I sent them out beginning of December 2017 to this day no one ever received them 🙁 sent them out from a mailbox on 70th and West End.

    11. Wendy says:

      it’s astonishing that they cannot fix this. Just replace the mailboxes with tamper-proof receptacles. Just figure out how to pay for it.

      • Jason says:

        Or. . .send out the police to catch these criminals, and lock them up. Why is the answer to either change our behavior or make it more difficult for them?

    12. debn says:

      Mailbox on 79th and Amsterdam tamper proof. Also good idea to use gel ink for writing checks, harder to bleach with chemicals

    13. BillyNYC says:

      It is about time that all the mailboxes should be replaced with a new kind of secure opening that that does not move (no door) just a slot wide enough to slip your letter or large envelopes into the slot. The Post Office (US Government) should be held responsible.

    14. Kathy says:

      I will no longer send mail from the PO Right across the street from me (Cathedral), I’ve sent cards (2 w/cash), they were never received! I sent a card to my sister with a note on the envelope (No Cash included)! I sent a Morhers Day card in May, it was received in July! Unless I send something that is traceable and needs a signature, I just don’t! UNBELIEVABLE!

    15. Jeremy Willinger says:

      Post office on West 104th is notorious for being the home of morons and cretins who I am convinced steal mail.

    16. Jaime says:

      This persistent and nagging problem is not getting sufficient attention from the post office and police. It seems to me that this is much more serious than the post office admits. I have mailed items from the post office on 104th Street, from mailboxes on WEA, from the mail chute in my building. Many items failed to reach their destination; they simply disappeared. What was once one of the most respected institutions in America is now a joke and perhaps a criminal enterprise.

      • dannyboy says:

        US Postal Service is being starved by Congress so it can be shut down.

        Then the Paymasters of Congress can have their monopoly.

        Only the people will be hurt, so “it’s good to go”.

    17. MJ says:

      Alert: West 60 Street Mailbox between Broadway and Columbus (in front of PO) BEWARE!
      Mail was stolen Dec 2017 from this mailbox and checks were washed and deposited in ATMS.

    18. says:

      My Post office on 68th St. & Columbus Ave is great, SO Far!

      I do hope it continues I was fished out of the mailbox on W.70 St. and Columbus Ave. It was a real pain to get everything
      back to normal. The bank was overwhelmed with this problem
      it was Oct.2017. I like our PD Dept. they are harassed in this
      city from people that don’t understand what their jobs entail. they should help instead of complaining. I’m 85 yrs.old.