“Everyone might either have been a victim of it or knew of someone that has been victimized by this,” Cermeli said.
Often, crooks go mailbox fishing in order to find things like rent checks. When they retrieve the checks, they can wash out the ink and write in whatever amount they want.
Cermeli encouraged residents to use uniball pens which have permanent ink. He added that the precinct will give away pens in the future.
Currently, the precinct is working on retrofitting all of the mailboxes in the precinct.
“If you see a mailbox where the slot is a lot thinner now, it’s to combat the people who put traps in there,” he said.
Certain illegal keys that can open mailboxes are sold on the black market for thousands of dollars. However, Cermeli noted that the precinct is now starting to attach drop key boxes into mailboxes. With the use of the drop key box, no one can use the mailbox after hours. If someone tried to open the mailbox with the key, the box would immediately confiscate the key.
“If a person tries to use their key, they’re going to lose it, and the postal worker will see that someone has tampered with the mailbox,” Cermeli said. “We’ll then look at surveillance cameras, get a description and see who’s involved.
“Everything they think of, we’re trying to stay a step ahead,” he added.
A few months ago, a group of men attempted to steal an entire mailbox near 67th Road and Yellowstone Boulevard. One man loosened off the bolts from a mailbox and three others soon joined him to lift and load the mailbox into a minivan. But plainclothes officers and midnight anti-crime officers, who witnessed the incident occur, were able to arrest the men.
“That’s why [the officers] are out there, while everyone else is sleeping, they’re out there two, three, four in the morning,” he said. “We were able to apprehend them and conduct search warrants on their phones. We’re getting a lot of proof and information from briefing them.”
If you have to deposit a check and you need to use the postal service, try taking the check to the post office, Cermeli suggested.
“Put it through the actual post office. I don’t even want to say to put it in the mailbox in front of the post office because they’re still susceptible,” he said. “If you can’t make it to the post office, because I understand it can be inconvenient, know when the pickup time is. [Pickup times] are written on the mailbox so go as close as possible to that time so your mail isn’t just sitting there all day long.”
When mail is sitting in the box overnight, or over the weekend, the possibility of becoming a victim of mailbox fishing is greater.
“We have our plainclothes officers out there, we’re working with the United States Postal Inspection Service and we’re confident that we’re going to make a dent in this,” Cermeli said. “As we lock up people and as we put people away, the message will get out that this is serious and we’re taking it seriously.”