DYKER HEIGHTS — Mail “fishing” is going out of style, thanks to newer postal boxes on the streets, according to U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who came to Dyker Heights Thursday to tout a big change made by the U.S. Postal Service.
Rose stood outside the Dyker Heights Post Office at 8320 13th Ave. and announced that the USPS has completed a project to replace all of the old sidewalk mailboxes in the 11th Congressional District, the district he represents, with newer, tamper-proof mailboxes designed to prevent mail theft.
Rose called the new mailboxes “a win for this community.”
In the past few years, clever thieves have stolen mail out of sidewalk mailboxes by employing a method known as mail fishing. The crooks fish for mail by placing a sticky substance, like glue, on a rock or a stick, attaching the stick to a string and lowering it into the mailbox. The stick becomes attached to pieces of mail, which the thieves then haul back up to the surface.
Mailbox bandits have stolen checks, bills, birthday cards and other valuable items that law-abiding citizens placed in the mailboxes, said Rose, a Democrat representing Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Once mail is fished out of the mailbox, thieves either wash the ink off the stolen checks or use account information obtained in the mail to commit fraud and identity theft, Rose said.
“Mail fishing has been a serious problem in our district, and many have been hit hard. Seniors who have worked hard paying into Social Security for decades and family members sending checks to loved ones have had them stolen and forged,” Rose said, adding that he has worked successfully to get $120,000 that had been linked to mail fishing and check fraud returned to his constituents.
The new mailboxes installed by USPS are designed with a much narrower opening so that a potential thief can’t drop a foreign object into the box. The opening is wide enough for a letter or two, but not much more.
Rose said the USPS calls the new receptacles “the Cadillac of mailboxes.”
The problem of mail fishing came up during a roundtable Rose held in June with USPS officials, lawmakers and officials from Community Board 10 and Community Board 11 to discuss postal issues.
Rose said that while he criticizes USPS when they don’t provide adequate service, “I will always acknowledge when they do the right thing.”
Assemblymember William Colton, who attended Rose’s announcement at the post office, said he had been the victim of mail fishing. In his case, a Good Samaritan found his envelope and he was able to recover his check.
Mail theft is a difficult problem to deal with, said Colton, because it often results in victims having to deal with the added headache of calling banks, canceling credit cards and taking other steps to combat identity theft.
“The new mailbox design helps avoid people stealing mail out of it,” said Colton, a Democrat representing Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights.
Mail fishing has had a significant impact on Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge residents, according to CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who said she had been recommending to senior citizens that they go directly to the post office to mail letters to avoid falling prey to mailbox thieves. But one senior told her that it was a hardship.
Beckmann said she is pleased to see the new mailboxes on the sidewalks. “Now, when people put mail in the mailbox, they will know it’s secure,” she said.
USPS officials did not return messages from the Home Reporter.