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Mail theft continues in Astoria, leaving residents feeling abandoned by USPS and feds

Mail theft continues in Astoria, leaving residents feeling abandoned by USPS and feds
Mail theft continues in Astoria, leaving residents feeling abandoned by USPS and feds 02:27

NEW YORK -- Since CBS New York first brought you reports of a string of mail thefts in Astoria, we've continued to hear from viewers across Queens who say they've had mail stolen as well.

On Monday, reporter Elle McLogan was again standing in the very spot talking about the troubling problem, and it has happened again.

"Now, it seems they've rented a U-Haul truck to come steal mail," resident Christina Fraioli said.

Fraioli smiled in disbelief after that same pair of green mailboxes on her corner was targeted yet again.

READ MOREStolen mail has Astoria, Queens residents calling for action

CBS New York first brought you exclusive video this summer showing multiple mid-afternoon thefts on 23rd Avenue at 21st Street. Perpetrators are seen teaming up on mopeds and in getaway cars.

In the latest incident, a moving van and someone wearing a jacket resembling a mail carrier's uniform were involved.

"It wasn't a USPS jacket. It just kind of looked like one," Fraioli said.

As the video shows, its wearer seemed to fumble with multiple keys and got spooked.

"Actually, a neighbor in the area confronted this gentleman. 'Hey, can I help you?' Like, 'What are you doing?' And the guy got scared and ran back in the truck and they drove off," Fraioli said.

Unlike past break-ins, that attempt failed, but it was little comfort to area residents, who suspect multiple groups are getting the same idea -- to seek out the green USPS relay boxes that letter carriers use for mail storage.

"Now that we know these boxes are vulnerable, I guess everybody wants a piece of the pie," Fraioli said.

Victims stand to lose more than birthday cards and paychecks.

"I have a neighbor whose insulin was stolen," Fraioli said.

Identity theft is also top of mind. Since CBS New York's first report on these incidents, we've heard from viewers experiencing mail theft from Jamaica to Bayside. They point to a borough-wide problem. Victims said the post office never gave them word their mail was gone or offered fraud protection.

"We recommend dropping it off directly to the post office," said NYPD Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, the Commanding Officer of the 104th Precinct.

The NYPD and U.S. Postal Service shared mail theft prevention tips with the public.

"We're relying on the public to tell us when they don't receive something," said John Del Giudice, the assistant inspector in charge for the New York Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

But locals are wondering why it should fall on them to safeguard their own mail.

Congresswoman Grace Meng said her office has already helped eliminate the old blue boxes that were prone to mail fishing.

"They literally took a string with something sticky at the end, and they would fish people's mail," Meng said.

Now, all eyes are on the green boxes and their vulnerable locks.

In a statement, the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Postal Service told CBS New York, in part, "USPS will be installing 49,000 electronic locks to replace traditional postal keys."

As for when that will happen, the postal inspector said, "I don't."

Neighbors are seeking more immediate prevention. They want to know, if video proof isn't enough to inspire action, what is?

"It seems like there's a lot of different things that could be done, maybe just to deter," Fraioli said.

In the absence of support, victims have become their own advocates. Fraioli started a newsletter for sharing information.

"I think all of us here in Queens are feeling a little abandoned by the USPS and by the federal government," she said.

For now, Fraioli is proposing one simple step.

"Can we get rid of the relay boxes at least for the time being? It's kind of like a Thanksgiving dinner laid out for wolves in the forest here," she said.

Elle is our community reporter covering Queens. This story came through her inbox. If you have a story in the borough to share, you can send an email to 

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