Here's Why They Lock Mailboxes Along Parade Routes

The 90th Anniversary Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off Thursday amid heightened security measures, including one that had some spectators doing a double take. Mailboxes along the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route were locked in an effort to help thwart potential bombings.

Over the years the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has become a much-loved holiday tradition, bringing 16 giant character balloons, 26 floats, 19 music acts, 1,000 clowns, 1,100 cheerleaders, and 16 marching bands and performance groups to the streets of New York City. Each year an estimated 3.5 million spectators line the nearly 3-mile Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route, which starts on Central Park West at the 77th street intersection and heads down both 59th Street and 6th Avenue before ending in front of Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square.

Although authorities ramped up security measures surrounding this year's parade — a general response to terror attacks like one that left 86 people dead in Nice, France, on Bastille Day — the New York Police Department was careful to stress that no credible threat had been levied against the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. According to CBS News, more than 80 New York City sanitation trucks were filled with salt and sand and used as a physical barrier to block intersections and other strategic locations along the parade route from potential vehicular threats.

"It is a very large detail," NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill told CBS News. "I think this year, you’re going to see a lot more block cars and sand trucks on the cross-streets." NYPD Chief of Patrol Terrance Monahan told the news outlet that spectators should expect to see a heavy weaponry presence throughout the parade with more than 3,000 police officers set to guard the route.

One security measure, however, had some spectators a bit taken aback. While police officers are an expected sight for parade spectators, some onlookers were surprised to find padlocks firmly secured to the mailboxes that lined the parade route. As disconcerting as it may be to find your neighborhood mailbox locked up, the practice is a security measure commonly employed by law enforcement authorities during parades or other major events in an effort to limit the number of potential locations for bombs to be hidden. And with good reason. Pipe bombs hidden in mailboxes have injured and killed people in the past.

New York City police reportedly padlocked all of the mailboxes along the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route at least one day prior to the parade's start time. Residents and tourists looking to dispatch holiday cards, bills, or postcards on streets closed for the parade can expect mailboxes to be unlocked when the hubbub of the Macy's parade is over.