July 12, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Congresswoman Grace Meng has called on the United States Postal Service (USPS) to tackle the rising theft of mail from postal relay boxes in Queens.
The relay boxes, which are dark green postal boxes placed on sidewalks, are increasingly becoming targets of thieves throughout the borough, according to Meng. The boxes are used by postal workers to store mail and are often situated next to standard blue collection boxes.
Meng said that her office has received a surge in complaints of thieves breaking into relay boxes and stealing mail that is stored inside. The relay boxes can hold thousands of letters belonging to residents and are vulnerable to break-ins since they are only locked with a key, she said.
The congresswoman said that the relay boxes need to be made more secure. Many thieves have been able to pry the doors open and make off with their contents.
Meng, who represents New York’s 6th Congressional District covering central and northeastern Queens, penned a letter to USPS District Manager Frank Calabrese Thursday urging him to combat the issue.
“I write to respectfully request that you consider taking immediate steps to address the theft of mail from USPS ‘relay boxes’ in the 6th Congressional District,” Meng wrote.
“As you know, mail theft is a crime with serious consequences. Identifies can be stolen, money removed from bank accounts, sensitive documents obtained and more.”
Meng said having just one letter stolen can have lasting consequences on a victim and that seniors are particularly vulnerable to mail theft.
“That is why it is crucial for this to be a top priority of the USPS,” she wrote.
The lawmaker said that mail security has been a persistent problem in Queens over the past number of years – with the targeting of relay boxes being the latest issue following a wave of standard mailbox break-ins.
In April, for instance, six suspects were charged with stealing checks from blue collection boxes throughout Queens. The alleged thieves, whose crimes date back to 2019, would then alter the checks— and increase the amount—before cashing them. They netted around $100,000 in stolen funds, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
The perpetrators used a process known as “mail fishing” to steal the letters whereby they allegedly placed a string connected to a sticky material into the collection boxes and then “fished” out the envelopes.
The USPS, Meng said, began retrofitting blue collection boxes in Queens in recent years with narrower mail slots to prevent mail fishing. The narrower slots make it harder for thieves to steal the mail that is inside, Meng said.
Meng called on the USPS to come up with similar security initiatives to prevent relay boxes from being broken into.
“I know the improvements needed to make these Relay Boxes secure are in the Postal Service’s abilities,” Meng said in a statement.
“Now, all that is left to do is to implement the required security.”