In the first 100-yard stretch of Roseland Drive in Fairfax Station, dented and smashed mailboxes are a sign of a prank that's gone too far.
The crime was first reported in February 2003, when 25 mailboxes in the Estates at Roseland were tampered with. Seventeen more were struck in March 2003, another 17 in August, and 20 last January. So far, the Fairfax Station neighborhood has seen 19 damaged mailboxes in April, according to Shelly Broderick, Fairfax County Police spokesperson.
Kathy Madison estimates that her mailbox has been smashed 20 times through the years.
"I've lost count," Madison said. "At first, it was just the mailbox, and now it's the post."
Neighbor Julie Townsend is tired of the ongoing property damage as well.
"There are so many that are beyond repair," Townsend said. "Everyone's really frustrated."
DETECTIVES from the West Springfield District Station are investigating the case, according to Fairfax County Police Lt. John Naylor. Smashing mailboxes is considered destruction of property, but tampering with the mail itself is a federal crime, Naylor said.
"We're investigating it right now," he said.
Townsend thinks it's a high-school prank and possibly material for a home-video segment involving a three-person operation — driver, smasher and videographer.
"Once or twice, people thought they heard noises," Townsend said.
The most recent series of destructions occurred during the early morning hours of April 8, around 2:40 a.m. according to police. A citizen awoke to hear loud banging. When he looked out his window, he saw a vehicle driving away and his mailbox smashed.
Aside from one of the neighbors waiting with his own video camera or a police stakeout, catching these vandals is not a simple task. Many of the homes in this community are located on pipestem driveways, with the mailboxes positioned on the main street. Neighbors have considered such possible solutions as adding a gated entrance, using video surveillance, or installing steel mailboxes that are more durable. Madison has been in on the discussions.
"There's been multiple discussions about it," Madison said. "That's a huge expense [gated community] vs. the cost to replace the mailbox."
The post office requires the boxes to be on the main street to make delivery easier, but Madison is involved with talks with her neighbors and the U.S. Postal Service to put their boxes on the pipestem, just off the main road, making a simple drive-by smashing not as convenient.
"We wanted to move it farther in," Madison said. "The code says the mailbox will have to be on the main street."
THE ESTATES AT ROSELAND Homeowners Association in the community requires a wooden post painted a cream yellow color with green, oversized mailboxes. But green, oversized mailboxes are not easy to find, according to Madison.
"We're having a hard time finding green," she said.
Townsend has encountered the same problem with purchasing a new one.
"Our supplier doesn't have enough green to keep up with the demand," Townsend said.
The particular mailbox which the community requires its residents to purchase is valued at approximately $250. According to police, the damage so far exceeds $24,000.
Naylor has investigated other incidents around Springfield, but not as many mailboxes have been smashed.
"It happens in other places, but not to this extent," he said.
Some residents see the damage as a teen-age prank, albeit an expensive one.
"It could just be a thing kids do on a Friday night," Madison said.
Anyone with information on any of these destructions or the persons involved is asked to call Fairfax County Crime Solvers at 1-800-673-2777 or 703-691-8888. A $1,000 cash reward will be paid for information that leads to an arrest. Callers never give their names or appear in court.