US postal carriers and your mail are under assault. Is there a simple solution?

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 5:28 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It has never been an easy task delivering the mail, but even as some of us have become less reliant on that daily delivery, the task has become even more difficult, dangerous even.

Mail carriers have found themselves at risk as they navigate through neighborhoods trying to finish their route, so much so that the National Association of Postal Supervisors reports there have been 7,000 reports of violent crimes against postal employees in the first year since the elimination of the postal police.

Yes, you read that correctly.

There was a postal police force that, at one time, actually took to the streets and patrolled mail routes.

Equally as important, they also patrolled those blue neighborhood boxes that were an easy way to send out a letter or pay a bill.

But now those carriers are under assault and so are those blue boxes, as thieves are holding up the carriers and demanding the keys to the boxes where they subsequently steal the mail as often as they like.

It was in August of 2020, when Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ordered the postal police to stop patrolling neighborhoods and instead focus on policing post office buildings.

Frank Albergo, the President of the Postal Police Officers Association, claims it was that decision that has led to the surge in attacks on carriers and stolen mail.

“There stubborn refusal to use the postal police force borders on pathological,” Albergo said. “I mean it’s incredible, they just flat out refused and they don’t have a coherent explanation as to why.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is critical of the decision as well and has written a letter to the postmaster general asking him to re-instate field operations for the postal police.

“They should be safe on the job, that’s the number one function and they don’t feel as safe as they did before. DeJoy, the head of the postal service, made this wrong headed decision,” Brown said.

“He made a clearly bad decision by turning over what historically had been done by federal postal police, to local police who are already overburdened and don’t have the training or the skills necessarily to police the postal service,” Brown continued.

Body camera video recently released by the Cleveland Division of Police shows a local postal carrier speaking with an officer just moments after being held up.

“I turned around again and he was running up on me and said, ‘Don’t run,” pulled the gun out and said, ‘Give me the keys,’” the carrier told police. “I thought he was about to shoot me and that’s when I threw the keys at him.”

Albergo said, at minimum, eight postal carriers in Ohio have been attacked since the start of the new year.

“I mean this is ridiculous, and Ohio is a complete disaster. Ohio might be the worst state,” he said.

The safety of the carriers is the number one priority, but stolen mail and the subsequent problems that causes can not be discounted when considering this growing problem.

Sarah Lucas, who lives in the Canton area, has dealt with the problem — she believes on two levels.

The first? She believes there is a high probability she had her identity stolen due to mail theft.

Just recently she helped her father work his way through issues with his bank after he had a check stolen. The thieves created a series of new checks from the one they stole.

One totaling $2,500 was cashed against his account, and another had been written for $12,000 but the scam was discovered before that check could be cashed.

Lucas’ father was able to get his money back, but she remains mystified that the postal police are no longer on patrol.

“Especially for mail carriers that walk their routes that could be robbed at any time,” she said. “If they’re brave enough to steal checks out of a mailbox then they are brave enough to rob or even harm the people that walk the routes.”

Albergo is still hopeful of getting his officers back on the streets. He is well aware that local police, especially in bigger cities, are understaffed and would like nothing better than to be on the job protecting the carriers.

He’s also aware that re-instating the postal police to patrols won’t stop every assault.

“Of course not, but it’s completely out of control at this point, and we can make a significant dent in it,” Albergo said.

19 News reached out to USPS for comment and received the following information:

PPOs are the uniformed security force of the Postal Service and play an important role in the protection of employees, assets, and mail on Postal Service property. PPOs are armed, wear uniforms, and use clearly marked vehicles to deter crime and provide physical security at Postal Service facilities. By law, the jurisdiction of PPOs is limited to Postal Service real property, and as such, the primary role of PPOs is to provide physical security for Postal Service property at their assigned work locations.

In addition, the investigation of mail theft is the jurisdiction of U.S. Postal Inspectors. Postal Inspectors are federal law enforcement agents who conduct investigations of postal-related crime, such as mail fraud and theft. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service takes seriously its role to safeguard America and will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators that use the U.S. Mail system to further their illegal activity.

The Postal Inspection Service is also engaged on multiple fronts with various partners to combat mail theft/robberies and prosecute these criminals. Some of the steps we are taking include:

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service engages with its local, county, state, and federal law enforcement partners, including the Department of Justice, to address violent crimes committed against Postal Service employees and other Postal crimes.

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service participates in violent crime tasks forces including the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force which include local, county, state, and federal law enforcement officers. These task forces target violent crimes including those perpetrated against on-duty USPS employees.

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service employs Special Assistant United States Attorneys throughout the United States to specifically prosecute mail theft related cases including those associated with the robberies of on-duty USPS letter carriers.

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service employs local law enforcement officers as task force officers in various locations throughout the United States to address mail theft and other crimes with a postal nexus

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service deploys additional Postal Inspectors to locations around the country where robberies, mail theft, and other postal-related crimes warrant more focused attention.

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service utilizes the latest technology and techniques to target cyber-enabled financial crimes including those associated with robberies and mail theft.

• The U.S. Postal Inspection Service works closely with other stakeholder groups within the Postal Service to develop, test, and deploy new and improved hardware, tools, and technology to enhance mail security.