Residents are increasingly concerned abut thief has been stealing mail for months at households in the Underhill-Prospect Place area.
Last fall, someone has been stealing mail from households up and down Prospect and Park places, often throwing it on the street.
About a year ago, Les Ramsey began noticing unopened mail lying in people’s yards or on the sidewalk near his home on Prospect Place between Underhill and Vanderbilt.
“Then people started bringing me my mail. We were all finding each other’s mail at different points on the day,” he said.
Residents are not sure how widespread the problem is, but they know of repeated incidents at at least a dozen homes on Prospect and Park places between Underhill and Vanderbilt, and on Underhill and Vanderbilt between Prospect and Park.
Liza Schultz, who also lives on Prospect Place between Underhill and Vanderbilt, began noticing the problem about six months ago. “I was the one up early in the morning, about six months ago, and I found mail from three or four different people, “ she said.
The local post office advised people to get locked mailboxes, and many did. But it didn’t always help.
Mike Donlon, who lives next door to Ramsey, got a locked mailbox only to find the lock broken about a month later.
“I fixed it and a week later it was broken again,” he said.
He tried to report the crime to the police, but was politely told he needed to report it to the United States Postal Service. Officer Tania Salters, community affairs liaison for the 77th precinct, clarified later that while stolen mail is reported to the USPS, the damaged mailbox should be reported to the NYPD.
The reason for the thefts is unclear, but Ramsey and his neighbors think the thief must be after financial information. The only piece of mail Ramsey knows for sure has gone AWOL is a letter sent by American Express.
“It’s very hard to identify what you haven’t gotten,” Ramsey said.
So far, nobody interviewed knows of anyone who has been a victim of identity theft.
But that's small comfort for those dealing with the thefts.
“It’s a violation, a personal violation,” said Dolan, whose mailbox was broken into twice. “It’s not supposed to happen. Your mail is one of those things you just take for granted that it’s supposed to be there.”