Mailbox vandalism plagues area residents

This article submitted by Aaron Ziemer on 6/23/99.

smashed mailbox At many homes around the area, mailbox bashing has been becoming a larger problem once again.

Many area residents have had mailboxes knocked off their posts or dented, by vandals looking for something to do.

Bashing mailboxes is a federal offense. It is criminal damage to property, which is a misdemeanor offense. It is specifically known as Title 18, United States Code, Section 1705.

In the law it states that someone convicted of mailbox vandalism could face a fine no greater than $1,000, or a jail sentence of no longer than three years, or both.

Mailbox vandalism has been going on for years. It is not a new crime, but it seems to be one of the more popular ways for people to get into trouble.

"It is a continuous problem," said Paynesville Police Chief Tony Schmitt. "It seems some place in the county, every week, at least one mailbox has been taken out."

Schmitt said that it has been more than a Paynesville problem, it is a problem just about everywhere.

Schmitt said there is not a real clear cut reason why someone does it. He said that sometimes alcohol is involved.

"It just seems like the thing to do at the time," said Schmitt.

One Paynesville home owner who has had his family's mail box smashed four times in the last 10 years has made his mailbox nearly indestructible.

He said the last time he had one smashed it was done by an axe.

He put together a mailbox made of 1/8 inch steel. The box weighs about 80 pounds total.

"We heard someone hit it one night," the home owner said. "But it was still standing the next morning, without a scratch."

Harlan and Sue Hecht of rural Paynesville also have recently had some problems with their mailbox.

On the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend their mailbox was stolen along with the Paynesville Press box.

"We were really upset, because it was at our expense," said Sue Hecht.

Hecht said she spent part of the next day walking along the ditches near her residence looking for the mailbox but it was not anywhere to be found.

"They probably smashed it, then threw it away someplace," added Hecht.

Dan Severance, the Paynesville Post- master said that mailbox destruction usually goes in spurts.

"It goes in waves," said Severance. "It won't happen for a long time, then for about a two to three-night period it will happen again, but then it stops and doesn't happen for a long time."

Many of the other people shared in Severance's belief that it happened in waves. They all said that it seems to happen to more than one mailbox at a time, then it won't happen for awhile.

The post office doesn't do a lot when a mailbox is smashed. The reason for this is because the mailbox itself is private property, and the owner of the box is usually the person who is responsible for paying for and putting up the new box. The postal service will usually hold the mail until a new box is put up, but unless mail is being stolen, it usually won't do very much.

One of the more popular areas in or near Paynesville for mailbox vandalism is along County Road 34. It is a rural road with not very much traffic on it late at night. There have been many mail- boxes smashed along that road.

"It usually doesn't happen in town," said Severance. "Usually it happens on a rural road in the middle of the night."

According to a press release by the United States Postal Service it says that mailbox vandalism is usually the result of juveniles playing pranks.

The press release also states that the best way to stop mailbox vandalism is through education.

"The first thing an owner should do if their mailbox is vandalized is call their local law enforcement," said Severance.

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