Mailbox vandalism: A crime that affects everyone

Mailbox vandalism: A crime that affects everyone


You’ve seen it at the movies. For years, it was considered a “rite of passage,” teens leaning from their car windows, smashing mailboxes along the way. And unless their own mailbox was destroyed, most people thought it really wasn’t any big deal.

This isn’t true anymore. Mailbox vandalism using explosives can destroy mailboxes and people’s lives. Unfortunately, mailbox vandalism has increased, and it is no laughing matter.

The so-called “McGuiver Bomb” that explodes after several minutes when chemicals are mixed in a pop bottle is the latest act of mailbox vandalism that can result in serious injury.

If you see anything suspicious in your mailbox, call local authorities immediately.

The good news is that people are taking the crime—and it is a crime—more seriously. Elsewhere in the nation, four members of a high school football team were taken into custody after confessing to mailbox vandalism, using either baseball bats or pipe bombs. Fortunately, nobody was hurt by the bombs—described as powerful enough to kill or cause serious injury.

In the South, a man in a rural area used technology to solve a festering problem with vandalism that had reached what authorities call “epidemic proportions.” After losing seven mailboxes to mailbox bashers over a two-week span, he set up a video camera that captured two 16-year-old high school students banging the box off its post and then stealing the mail. Arrested a short time later, they denied the act until confronted with the videotaped evidence.

Rural and suburban mailboxes are the most vulnerable to vandalism, according to postal inspectors, because they are usually isolated and frequently not visible to the owners from their homes. Since mailboxes are considered federal property, crimes against them are considered a federal offense.

Violators can be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years for each act of vandalism. If someone is injured, the penalties are even more severe.

If you have information on mailbox vandalism or mail theft in your area, contact local law enforcement authorities and the Inspection Service.

Parents—make an effort to stop mailbox vandalism before it starts. If you have teenagers in your home, let them know the penalties for vandalism, and that the Postal Service is aggressive about prosecution. If you see anyone with suspicious materials such as chemicals, explosives, misplaced baseball bats or the like, make an effort to stop the vandalism. A so-called “harmless prank” can ruin lives. Then it will be too late to get involved.

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