Those responsible for damaging 50 mailboxes in the Exeter area last week could face federal charges now that the U.S. postal inspector has been alerted to the rash of vandalism.
"This is a pretty serious issue," said Sgt. Angela Cole with the Barry County Sheriff's Office, lead investigator on the case. "We have questioned a couple of people but we're still investigating."
Cole said the sheriff's office was contacted about the mail box bashing incidents on the morning of July 26. Although only a few individuals have reported the vandalism to the sheriff's office, Exeter Postmaster Pamela Graham reports that she has received reports of 50 mailboxes being destroyed or heavily damaged.
"This is probably the most (cases of mailbox vandalism) I've worked in my career," said Cole. "Usually it's one or two at a time. This is a lot."
The mailboxes were smashed by a bat or other type of rod, according to Cole.
If the postal inspector takes over the case, suspects could be charged with federal offenses. If the incidents are handled through the state, suspects would be charged with misdemeanor property damage.
The incidents of vandalism occurred sometime between the late hours of July 25 and the early morning hours of July 26.
"We're thinking all these cases are related," said Cole.
Anyone who had a mailbox damaged or who has information about the incidents is asked to contact the Barry County Sheriff's Department at 847-3121.
Graham said she will be mailing out Mail Theft and Vandalism Report forms to victims on Wednesday. These reports should be filled out, signed and retuned to the Exeter Post Office as soon as possible.
Anyone who was a victim of this recent rash of vandalism and who does not receive a reporting form should contact the Exeter Post Office at 835-5111.
"A lot of people have already put up new mailboxes," said Graham. "It has become so common but I don't think they realize the scope of the latest incidents. It's major."
Graham said if enough Mail Theft and Vandalism Reports are received by the post office, the postal inspector said he might offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of those involved in the mailbox bashing incidents.
According to Graham, Routes 1 and 3 in Exeter were the hardest hit by vandals. In particular, the Thomas Hollow area was a target.
The Washburn Post Office has also reported several incidents of mailbox vandalism. Approximately 14 mailboxes were damaged or destroyed in the Star Hollow area of Washburn, which is located south of Thomas Hollow.