Greenwich Porch Pirates, Say Hello to Mailbox Fishermen

Greenwich is experiencing a rash of mail thefts from mailboxes, both residential and the blue Postal Service street collection boxes.

The trend is a regional one that includes neighboring towns in Fairfield County and New York City.

In what has been dubbed “mailbox fishing,” thieves take a string and attach a glue trap for mice or something sticky, drop it into the mail box and pull mail out.

Thieves are looking for checks they can forge by replacing the payee’s name with their own. They also change dollar amounts. This is called “check washing.”

According to Greenwich Police Captain Kraig Gray, “We continue to have issues with porch pirates and theft of mail from personal mailboxes after they put the flags up.”

“We investigate these incidents, but it is under the authority of the Postal Service. We can arrest these people on local charges, and US Postal Service can bring about federal charges that are different from ours. But they have to be different,” Gray said, referring to double jeopardy.

In Darien, where there have been complaints about outgoing mail being stolen from United State Post Office depositories, police recently announced they are trying to get the Postal Service to install theft-deterrent mailboxes.

On Feb 4  Darien Police arrested three men who were found in possession of a total of 61 items of stolen mail around 3:00am.

Darien Police found not only 61 items of unopened mail in the car, they also found a crowbar and hammer. After checking the mailboxes outside the Post Office they found one that had been forcibly entered.

In New York City, the Postal Service has begun installing new theft-deterrent mailboxes in the five boroughs. In Queens, 40% of the blue boxes have been replaced.

Eventually, all of the more than 5,000 old public mailboxes in the city will be replaced, according to an article in Spectrum News New York.  The article said mailbox fishing began in the Bronx about three years ago and then spread to other boroughs as law enforcement tried to crack down.

Recently in Greenwich there have been many instances of stolen mail, or attempts to steal mail.

On Jan 31 there was a larceny from the blue box at Old Greenwich Post Office at 36 Arcadia Rd.

On the same day, there was a report of a vandalism from a mail box on Forest Ave in Old Greenwich.

Fortunately the box was already empty. The damage to the box was determined by police to reflect an attempt to steal mail. The post master was notified.

On Feb 16 there was a report of porch pirates on Lake Avenue.

On Feb 1 Greenwich Police received a report of a theft from a blue bin on East Putnam Ave that likely resulted in a check fraud.

On Feb 3 there was incident involving porch pirates on Lake Ave.

On Feb 5, there was a report of a theft from a bank of mailboxes at a condo complex in Cos Cob.

On Feb 6, there was a report of a check fraud the victim attributed to a likely theft in transit of mail. That involved a Greenwich Avenue company on the third floor.

“The payroll clerk reported the incident in which her checks were intercepted and fraudulent checks were produced,” Lt. Gray said, adding that all the above incidents have been reported to the United States Postal Services for follow up investigation.

Postal officials suggest using the letter slots at the post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.

Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.

The US Postal Inspectors website  has useful information on protecting against thieves and protecting your mail, as well as a link to report a mail theft complaint online. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.

Report all mail theft to a postal inspector, call 877-876-2455.