EAGLE ROCK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An unusual device used to steal mail has been found at Eagle Rock's main post office.
Similar items have been found in mailboxes across the city. Now, postal officials and customers are on alert.
The devices are often used by thieves to fish envelopes out of mailboxes and steal checks, someone's identity or other personal information.
Mailboxes throughout Eagle Rock have been rigged for theft, according to Tim Tritch, whose newspaper has been receiving complaints for weeks.
"I have heard between 40 and 50 stories from merchants who have had checks ripped off from the mail or had not been receiving mail," said Tritch, editor of the Boulevard-Sentinel.
One resident found a square device covered with a tacky substance, tied to a line. The goo was described like maple syrup. A postal official says thieves have also used glue from rat traps.
"People literally throw their mail in the box, it lands on top of this device with the sticky stuff, they call it fishing, and they just fish it out of the box," said Tritch.
Tritch says mail customers have filed reports for weeks and have heard nothing. Eyewitness News contacted the U.S. postal inspector.
"Even if the inspector doesn't contact the victim, we still have that information, and we are using it for our investigation," said U.S. Postal Inspector Renee Focht.
An active investigation is underway, with mailboxes vandalized on major boulevards.
What's most disturbing to residents is that the thieves have been striking on the property of Eagle Rock's main post office. In fact, that's where one fishing device was found.
Tritch has this advice about mailing: "Take your mail inside the post office."
Anyone who has been the victim of mail theft or sees suspicious activity around mailboxes is asked to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Hotline at (877) 876-2455.