Dec. 6, 2018 By Christian Murray
Several U.S. Postal Service mailboxes in Sunnyside have been hit by mail fishers in recent months, and the 108th Precinct announced last week that it has taken steps to stop these crafty crooks.
Thieves have been focusing heavily on the blue mailboxes on 43rd and Skillman Avenues between 43rd and 48th Streets, police said. Similar activity has also occurred on Greenpoint Avenue near 41st Street.
Police say the perpetrators have been attaching glue-covered bottles to pieces of string to fish out mail from inside the mailboxes. They then pull out checks, white wash them, and rewrite the checks for large sums.
“We have had a few hits on the boxes [along 43rd Avenue] in the past month,” said an officer with the 108 Precinct’s Crime Prevention Unit at the monthly precinct meeting last week.
Two residents have notified the Sunnyside Post of their mail being fished out of boxes on 43rd Avenue in recent weeks.
One woman’s mail was fished out of the mailbox at the corner of 43rd Avenue and 46th Street, with checks modified and made out to a new payee.
Another resident’s mail was fished out near 44th Street.
But Sunnyside is not alone in its recent bout of mail fishing, with several Queens neighborhoods also experiencing a big uptick in this type of crime, according to a representative from the Queens District Attorney’s office, who spoke at the precinct meeting. “Some say this is the new form of drug dealing,” the office said.
There have been approximately 700 incidents of mailbox fishing so far this year in the eight precincts that make up Patrol Borough Queens North, which spans from Astoria and Long Island City to Flushing.
In 2017, the number in the same Queens North areas was about 200, according to the NYPD.
To combat mail fishing, the 108th Precinct now has security cameras aimed at several mailboxes, where it is able to capture video of the perpetrators. Additionally, the police put together a list this month of Sunnyside businesses—and the owner’s contact information–that have cameras by mailboxes.
Furthermore, in recent weeks, several blue mailboxes have been retrofitted in the area. Some of the boxes, which had pull down handles so the mail could be easily inserted, have been replaced by those with narrow slots. These make it tougher for fishing.
“We have also been doing overnight operations and surveillance,” said Captain Roger Sankerdial, Executive Officer of the 108 Precinct, at the meeting.
There have already been two high-profile mail fishing arrests in Queens last month.
Travis Everett was arrested after he was caught mailbox fishing at 63rd Drive and 108th Street in Rego Park on Nov. 8. When cops nabbed him, they found nearly 400 pieces of mail in his car.
The mail included checks valued at approximately $400,000.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 28, two men were caught while fishing from a mailbox in Richmond Hill. They were also linked via video surveillance to mail fishing incidents in Forest Hills.
Sankerdial, however, recommends that residents avoid putting checks in the mail whenever possible, and pay online.
Furthermore, if people have to mail checks, he said, they should go directly to the post office—or at least use a box with a narrow slot.
“We are trying to spread the word right now,” Sankerdial said. “This is the time when people send checks to their grand kids for the holidays.”