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You’re messing with Uncle Sam

As I was driving down State Route 141 on my way to work Monday morning, I couldn’t help but notice a disturbing sight.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

As I was driving down State Route 141 on my way to work Monday morning, I couldn’t help but notice a disturbing sight.

Dozens of mailboxes along the road had been destroyed – likely by baseball bats or a similar object. There may have been dozens more vandalized on county and township roads, I don’t know.

In a time when "profiling" is a no-no I hate to point fingers, but I would have to say it was likely teen-agers out "wilding." These actions, however, are far beyond being wild.

Mailbox vandalism is not merely a prank – it’s a federal offense. That’s right, a FEDERAL offense.

What some people may not realize is mailboxes are considered federal property. So, if you destroy a mailbox, you are not victimizing just the property owner, you are messing with Uncle Sam.

According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, mailbox vandalism is a crime that carries fines of up to $250,000 per act of vandalism and/or up to three years in prison (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1705). Keep in mind, these penalties are for each act of vandalism.

For example, let’s say an individual goes out one night, destroys 10 mailboxes and gets caught in the act. That person would be facing fines of up to $2.5 million and up to 30 years in prison. Is it worth it?

And let’s not forget about the homeowners who have to either repair or replace their mailboxes. On my way home that evening, I counted four people working on their mailboxes – a chore they were forced to do because of a childish prank. Keep in mind a lot of mailboxes aren’t cheap.

Even though a lot of times it cannot be avoided, the United States Postal Service offers the following tips on protecting yourself against mailbox vandalism.

– Immediately report theft, tampering with, or destruction of mail and mailboxes to your local postmaster.

– Obtain Label 33 from the Postal Inspection Service. This sticker, which warns that willful damage to mailboxes and theft of mail is a crime, can be affixed to your mailbox.

– If you discover someone tampering with your or your neighbor’s mailbox, obtain that person’s description and that of his vehicle, including the license plate number. Immediately report the information to your local police and postmaster.

– Keep your mailbox in good repair by using proper installation methods. This may help prevent theft of the mailbox itself.

Following these steps may help you from being victimized by a mailbox vandal. For those who have already been victimized, it could assure that it does not happen again.