Queens lawmaker calls on USPS for additional security of green relay boxes to combat mail theft

Queens green relay boxes
USPS relay box (Photo via Twitter/Grace Meng)

Congresswoman Grace Meng is calling on the United States Postal Service (USPS) to combat the theft of mail from green relay boxes in Queens, which are next to many of the blue collection boxes. 

In July, Meng wrote to District Manager Frank Calabrese, who oversees the postal operations in Queens, to address the problem. 

Although some changes were recently made, Meng wants to see them expanded, and in a follow-up letter to Calabrese, called for additional steps to be taken:

  • Reducing the amount of time that mail is left in relay boxes to lower the chances of thieves stealing the envelopes inside
  • Installing more locks on relay boxes, including all that are located in her congressional district
  • And notifying the public — specifically those impacted — when mail in relay boxes has been stolen

Meng’s efforts to protect mail in relay boxes came after the Postal Service retrofitted blue collection boxes in Queens with mail slots after she urged the agency to do so. Meng made the request in 2018 to combat the problem of “mail fishing” in the borough which is when criminals place string connected to a sticky material into the collection boxes, and “fish” out the envelopes. The narrower slots make it more difficult for thieves to steal the mail that is inside. 

Unfortunately, mail theft has been a growing problem in her district over the past year, Meng said. 

“Constituents need to know that their mail, property and information is safe, and that is why the security of these relay boxes is so important,” Meng said. “I’m glad that improvements were made for Queens residents following the letter I sent earlier this year. However, these upgrades must be expanded to help stop this continued theft of mail. I look forward to working with USPS to help make sure that borough residents no longer worry about their mail’s security.”   

Meng’s letter also highlights that mail theft has drastic consequences for letter carriers who deliver mail. Letter carriers are frequently targeted, sometimes violently, by mail thieves, and this wave of thefts from relay boxes threatens their physical safety as well as the crucial service they provide to the public, Meng said. 

Tony Paolillo, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Flushing Branch 294 which represents postal workers throughout Queens, said combatting this crime not only protects the public’s interests but protects the brave letter carriers who are on the front line of this crisis. Paolillo thanked Meng for taking the lead on tackling the issue. 

“For these men and women to have targets on their backs simply because of the mail they are trying to deliver is unacceptable. These letter carriers risked their lives in service to our communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve to be protected. Every effort should be made to fully protect the letter carriers and the mail they deliver,” Paolillo said.