Deputy Inspector Robert Ramos, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, has been with the NYPD for more than three decades, serving in four of the city's five boroughs.
But what happened at the corner of Yellowstone Boulevard and 67th Road in Forest Hills in the early hours of Friday morning — that was a new one for him.
"It was a funny way to wake up this morning, that's for sure," Ramos told the Chronicle. "I had to do a double take when I saw the picture."
According to the commander, members of the 112th Precinct's anti-crime unit were patrolling the area when they witnessed three men putting a sidewalk mailbox they had yanked out of the ground into the back of a minivan.
The trio fled on foot when the officers arrived, but the crime fighters managed to chase down one of the suspects and arrest him. The other two escaped.
A prevalent issue throughout Queens for years, mail fishing — the use of a bottle or other object on a string and covered in adhesive to steal checks from mailboxes — has gotten particularly bad in the 112th Precinct this spring. The command received five complaints just this week, according to Ramos.
But the deputy inspector said he couldn't help but be shocked when he saw the photo of the letter drop in the back of the vehicle.
"This is a first. It's going to a different level now, it looks like," he said. "I don't know what these guys were going to do with it. I don't know how heavy a mailbox is, but it sure looks heavy."
Ramos did not reveal the identity of the man in custody — his charging documents have yet to be finalized — but he did say he is approximately 30 years old and lives in the Bronx.
It is the second arrest the precinct has made on mail theft in as many weeks.
In Rego Park last Friday, the same officers who busted the Bronx man cuffed two residents of Brooklyn — 25-year-old Ron Rosario and 23-year-old Carlos Salazar — who had been allegedly stealing mail from a box at the corner of 63rd Drive and Booth Street.
An eagle-eyed resident spotted them allegedly dropping something into the mailbox and pulling out envelopes at about 1 a.m. and called the police.
"I was kind of hoping the guys arrested last week were responsible," Ramos said of the recent rise in mail fishing in the precinct. "But hopefully these guys we got this morning are. Hopefully, it will have a positive impact."
Since the start of April, the commander said the precinct has been "hit pretty hard," adding that mail fishing isn't isolated to just certain pockets of Forest Hills or Rego Park.
"They broke into quite a few mailboxes last month, and just now, the altered checks are just coming back and the victims are finding out," he said. "We had been doing well, but it's gotten bad."
To combat the issue, he is adding officers to the midnight shift, as the crime mostly occurs in the overnight hours.
Ramos declined to name the officers who made both arrests, but he said there could some awards in their future.
"They're going to get something," he said. "That's for sure."