SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — An investigation is underway after more reports have been turning up over blue collection mailboxes getting broken into, and vandalized in the Syracuse community.

First it was Mattydale, and now Syracuse’s Eastwood neighborhood is being targeted by this federal crime, which is why postal inspectors are heading up the investigation.

“Each year, Americans trust the U.S. Postal Service with billions of letters and packages, and the vast majority of those arrive safely at their intended destinations. But there are always thieves who will target the mail,” said US Postal Inspector/PIO Emily Spera.

The blue collection mailboxes are retrofitted with thinner slots to make it harder for thieves to fish for what’s inside, but now local thieves have found another way to get inside.

Hardly a sophisticated operation, the thieves have been physically prying open the metal boxes from the bottom.

“The box being open on a Sunday threw me off, then when I saw it had been pried open, it was just a whole surreal moment. Like, wow, this is really huge, like this is a post box, what’s the point, how long were they here, and nobody saw this? And why?” said Annie Cox-Smith, a local neighbor who saw a tampered mailbox.

Cox-Smith took pictures of two local blue collection mailboxes that were on the corner of Melrose and Shotwell and on Sunnycrest and Hickok in the Eastwood neighborhood in Syracuse.

This type of federal crime is now on the rise as thieves are looking for quick cash, checks to wash or information to steal your identity.

Cox-Smith put a plea on Facebook hoping others captured the crooks on camera and by then, comments had come in on the Facebook page that some people had seen even more boxes with the same thing.

“The fact that it’s becoming the norm and I feel powerless. I guess we really have to come together. Up our neighborhood watch system and it needs to take all of us to fix this,” said Cox-Smith.

The mailboxes in Eastwood have now been removed.

“This is a game changer. This is a whole new way of doing things now,” said Cox-Smith.

If you’re uneasy about dropping your mail in a mailbox, you can always head to your local post office and drop it in the slot in the lobby, or hand it to your postal worker behind the counter.

Spera tells NewsChannel 9 that the postal inspection service is working alongside Syracuse Police on the investigation into multiple reports of vandalism to collection boxes, and at this point, it’s unclear if any mail was stolen.

If you think a check was stolen, cancel it and keep an eye on accounts for any suspicious activity.

According to Spera, there are extra steps you can take to ensure your mail arrives safely at its destination, including:

  • Deposit outgoing mail in the blue collection boxes before the last pickup time posted on the mailbox or deposit it inside at your local Post Office.
  • Never leave mail at your mailbox overnight.
  • Never send cash or coins through the mail. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that are more difficult to alter.

If any of the collection boxes need replacement or repair, this process is managed by the postal service. Those who are convicted of destruction of federal property could spend up to three years in jail and be fined up to $250,000.

If you believe your mail was stolen, call police immediately and then call postal inspectors at 1-877-876-2455.