The Mystery of the Smelly Letters: Who's Dumping Dog Poop into Munich's Mail?

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A classic German mailbox.

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in Süddeutsche Zeitung.

(MUNICH) — For months, one or more perpetrators have been slipping dog doo through mailboxes in Munich and surrounding districts. Any mail that comes in contact with the excrement then dirties the conveyor belts in post office sorting areas.

The police have no leads so far as to the identity of the perpetrators, but have established that some of the excrement is also human. Nor do they have any idea about what may be motivating the behavior. "Maybe a grudge against the post office, weird humor — we just don't know," says police spokeswoman Alexandra Schmeitz.

The incidents started this summer, first in mailboxes in the western part of Munich and the districts of Starnberg and Fürstenfeldbruck, and then extending into the eastern part of the city and other outlying districts. Costs to the post office, meanwhile, are mounting into the thousands of euros as dozens of mail boxes have to be cleaned, in addition to the stamping machine conveyor belts in the distribution centers. Processing time is also lost as the belts are stopped for cleaning.

The situation has post office users just as unhappy as its employees. Some mail has to be thrown out as a result of the attacks. Workers try as best they can to clean up the rest. The salvaged mail is delivered in plastic baggies with an explanatory note — needless to say, addressees remain unenthusiastic about receiving the malodorous missives.

There are several hundred mailboxes in Munich and surrounding districts. "We can't keep them all under permanent surveillance," says spokeswoman Schmeitz. Investigators are asking witnesses to step forward, although none have so far.

The post office is offering 4,000 euros to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators, and issued a warning to the effect that material damage and interfering with the smooth running of a public company could carry penalties including up to five years in prison.

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