The grainy image offered by the security camera caught it all: a dark-colored SUV rolled to a stop in front of Lee Raesly's home and out hopped a passenger who strolled slowly to the mailbox at the foot of his driveway. In the dark of the night, the person wrapped both arms around the mailbox and quickly ripped it from its post, dropping it in the street before the culprit quickly walked back to their car and drove away.
It was one of at least 21 such incidents that occurred in the River Falls neighborhood just before New Year’s.
"As far as vandalism to mailboxes goes, it does happen periodically to communities throughout the county," said Lucille Bauer, a spokesman for Montgomery County Police. Other typical types of neighborhood sprees include the slashing of car tires or the smashing of car windows, Bauer said.
A similar spate of mailbox-smashing occurred in River Falls in October, said Greg de Lissovoy, a board member of the Civic Association of River Falls who is responsible for updating the neighborhood on safety and security issues. The community contacted the police in both cases, de Lissovoy said. No arrests were made for the prior incident, said de Lissovoy. An investigation is currently under way for the most recent incidents, which occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 29 and Dec. 31, Bauer said.
"Often [vandalism sprees are] committed by young people who don't think about the sense of concern it causes in the communities; they think of it as a lark," said Bauer. Because the matter is currently under investigation Bauer could not provide details involving potential leads in the case.
All houses in River Falls have mailboxes built to resemble miniature houses as part of the code of the civic association, de Lissovoy said. Some mailboxes were simply ripped from their posts, but others were also destroyed, de Lissovoy said, and the cost of replacing an individual mailbox can be $500 or more.
RAESLY HOPES that the video footage he has turned over to police will help lead to an arrest, but because no clear image of the culprit's face was attained he is not positive that it will. He just hopes it will be a priority for the police.
"You know how these things go, 20 mailboxes get pulled over, it's not like it's a murder. I think [the police] care, but there's no CSI truck out in front of my house."
Likewise, de Lissovoy said he knows the police have much more weighty matters to attend to, such as gang violence and murders, but he would like to see positive results.
"I think it's important that these kinds of things are aired," said de Lissovoy.
"It's something that we take seriously," Bauer said. "It is something that does impact communities, it impacts their sense of safety and security in their communities."
The key to solving this crime — and all crimes like this — is community involvement, Bauer said.
"This type of crime can be very difficult to solve unless we get help from the community," Bauer said. "We ask the community that has had this kind of vandalism to be particularly vigilant in their communities and to report to police when they have a sense that people are in their community who do not belong or cars that are unusual." Crimes like these often occur in the middle of the night, so if residents are awakened by noise, Bauer said they should not roll over and go back to sleep, but rather get up and peek outside to see what might be going on.
"It can be difficult to find the perpetrators in this type of a crime," said Bauer, "but it can be successful."
A reward will be put forth and anyone with information leading to an arrest in this case could receive up to $1,000. Anyone with information should call either the Montgomery County Police Department at 240-773-6070 and ask for the Community Outreach Office, or the Crimesolvers Hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).