The U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office is actively investigating cases of mail fishing in Howard Beach and will be updating the community on its probe, a spokeswoman told the Queens Chronicle on Tuesday.
Residents reported at last week’s Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association meeting that there have been cases of people using fishing hooks to steal envelopes from mailboxes in the area.
Donna Harris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. postal inspector, said in a telephone interview that her office is aware of those incidents and is working with the NYPD’s Crime Prevention Unit to catch the crooks behind the scheme.
“We have presented the NYPD with our information,” Harris noted.
She did not say exactly how many complaints have been registered with the office, only noting that there have been “a couple” from Howard Beach.
The community will receive a visit from the Postal Inspector’s Office, she said, and be given an update on the investigation.
A date or location for that meeting has not been finalized.
Harris added the U.S. Postal Service is developing ways to stop people from using fishing lines and sticky material to take mail out of mailboxes, but she declined to elaborate on exactly how that is being done.
She urged residents to call 911 or the Inspector’s Office — which can be reached at 1 (877) 876-2455 — if they notice a person trying to reach inside a mailbox.
She added that people should not put their mail inside a mailbox if it appears to be overfilled.
The news of the ongoing investigation comes one day after Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) issued a statement urging the federal agency to work with the area precinct.
“Mail fishing is a dangerous practice that not only robs families of their hard-earned income, but can also have serious consequences for their valuable personal information and medical records,” Goldfeder said in the statement issued on Monday. “Our families deserve to know that their mail is safe and their personal information is secure when they drop a letter in the mail box.”
Harris addressed Goldfeder’s statement and a letter he sent to U.S. Postal Inspection Service Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell and reiterated that both law enforcement agencies are working together to combat the problem.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown last month charged that Queens and Brooklyn gang members fished checks out of mailboxes and forged new amounts and signatures on them.
The assemblyman, in his statement, expressed concern that the same thing could happen in his district.
“It’s like the old expression ‘there’s always more fish in the sea,’” he said. “Except in this case, it’s a matter of assuming that there are many criminals that may still be out there fishing mail. That’s why it’s so important to utilize every possible tool at every level of government to stem this dangerous tide.”