Woodland Park, N.J. — Long a symbol of convenience and security to postal patrons, that iconic blue mailbox at the corner means something very different to thieves prowling the streets of North Jersey: a potential gold mine of checks to be cashed.
In recent months, police throughout the area have seen a rash of mail fishing thefts — low-tech crimes in which rudimentary tools are covered with sticky substances to pluck bank documents, checks and birthday cards out of collection boxes.
The uptick in thefts, now the focus of a federal investigation, has prompted U.S. postal officials to mount a multi-pronged defense to educate patrons on ways to protect their mail. Meanwhile, police have made numerous arrests and caught suspects in the act.
“It’s gotten to be a giant problem,” said Robert Coyle, chief of police in Totowa, where eight people have reported checks stolen and fraudulently deposited. “They’re almost telling people, ‘Don’t put your mail in mailboxes.’ ”