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Photo via Facebook.com/bobholdencitycouncil
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Local elected officials meet with the 104th Precinct, U.S. Postal Service and Postal Inspector on Sept. 10 to discuss mailbox fishing in the district.

Updated on Sept. 11 at 4:10 p.m.

Local elected officials met this week with the 104th Precinct, U.S. Postal Service and Postal Inspector in the continued fight against mailbox fishing in Glendale and the surrounding area.

Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilman Robert Holden, Assemblyman Mike Miller and a representative for Senator Joseph Addabbo all met with Deputy Inspector John Mastronardi of the 104th Precinct as well as Postal Inspectors and officials from the Postal Service at Meng’s Forest Hills office on Sept. 10, where they discussed the crime trend at length.

According to multiple officials, the Postal Service explained at the meeting that 47 of the 189 mailboxes in the precinct have been retrofitted with smaller mail slots to prevent fishing. The rest of the mailboxes are expected to be retrofitted within the next 90 days.

When asked if that timeline could be any shorter, the Postal Service told the elected officials that the process is already being expedited as much as possible, according to Holden’s communications director, Daniel Kurzyna.

“U.S. Postal officials assured us that the remaining boxes will be retrofitted soon, prioritizing areas that have been hit the hardest with mailbox fishing,” Meng said in a statement on Sept. 11. “I thank the U.S. Postal Service for working with me on this issue and I will continue to work with the agency and all stakeholders until all collection boxes in Queens are retrofitted.”

The meeting came in response to a surge in the crimes in which an object covered in adhesive is tied to a string and dropped into a mailbox in an attempt to retrieve checks or documents with personal information. The 104th Precinct released two alerts in recent weeks notifying the community that there have been nearly 50 cases of mailbox fishing so far in 2018. 

While there have been cases throughout the precinct, Glendale has seen the majority with approximately 25 incidents, Kurzyna said.

Postal Inspectors told the elected officials that when they narrow in on a group suspected mailbox fishermen, the crooks often move on to another neighborhood, multiple officials said.

It’s a crime coming to an area near you,” Miller said. “The post office is anticipating it moving to another area in Queens or even Nassau County, and they’re trying to stay ahead of where it’s going to happen next.”

Officials also explained how the mail thieves are still looting the newly retrofitted mailboxes. In the old boxes with a pull-down hatch on the front, any number of larger objects such as a water bottle could be dropped inside. Now that the hatches have been replaced by a thin slot for mail in the front, the thieves are using plastic CD cases covered in adhesive to slip through and drop into the box, multiple officials said.

In one case, suspects are even believed to be in possession of a stolen mailbox key.

The retrofitted mailboxes have curtailed the crime wave somewhat, however, and Miller said a few arrests have been made in local fishing cases.

Going forward, Addabbo said that he plans to look into increasing the penalty for mail thieves on the state level with the hope that it will discourage them in the future.

It’s so simple to do, that’s why it’s so rampant these days,” Addabo said. “The new boxes do help, but I’d like that common thief to think twice if that penalty is increased.”

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