UPPER WEST SIDE — Scammers have targeted a series of mailboxes in the neighborhood, using a sticky substance to "go fishing" for mail, then opening the items and cashing any checks they find, police said.
Postal workers alerted police that they found evidence of a sticky substance used in such thefts in blues mailboxes at four local intersections: West 94 and Columbus Avenue, West 93rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, West 93rd Street and Broadway, and West 104th Street and Broadway.
By attaching a sticky substance to a piece of cardboard, perhaps a milk carton, the criminals "actually fish [in the mailbox], and whatever sticks to the carton they pull it out," said Officer Jessenia Guzman, a crime prevention officer with the 24th Precinct.
"We would like you to take your mail and take it directly to the post office instead of putting it in those blue boxes," she said.
Previously, officers in the 24th Precinct said they believed a crooked postal worker might be behind a series of fraudulently cashed checks in the neighborhood, but the recent evidence has altered their theory.
Officers have teams monitoring the boxes, passing out fliers and urging passersby to report any suspicious activity.
The fishing happens "normally very late at night and when it’s desolate so nobody can see them commit the crime," Guzman explained.
The 24th Precinct — which runs between West 86th and West 110th streets between Riverside and Central Parks — received five reports of checks being cashed after getting dropped into local mailboxes between Oct. 29 and Dec. 23, 2015, Deputy Inspector Marlon Larin said at a meeting this week.
There have been no new reports filed since then, he noted.
If anyone sees a person fishing in a mailbox, they should call 911 right away so that the precinct can treat the box as a crime scene and retrieve evidence, Larin added.
The U.S. Postal Service did not immediately respond to request for comment.