USPS Carriers Keep Getting Robbed—What That Means for Your Mail
More and more postal attacks have been reported across the country.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) often stresses its commitment to the safety of our mail—and that's essential, given how many of trust the agency with things like our prescriptions or bills. But the Postal Service's ability to protect our mail may be more difficult given a number of alarming recent incidents, as more and more USPS carriers have reported being robbed. Read on to find out what these crimes mean for your mail.
USPS carriers across the U.S. are getting robbed.
In the last month alone, there have been several reports detailing attacks on postal employees in different parts of the country.
A USPS carrier was robbed at gunpoint in North Hollywood on July 11, NBC Los Angeles reported. That same day, another Postal Service worker was attacked and robbed at a post office in San Francisco, according to CBS News.
Just a few weeks later, CBS-affiliate WTKR reported that a man had been arrested on the other side of the country in connection to a string of USPS robberies in James City County, Virginia, on July 20.
Now, another new report is coming out of San Francisco. NBC Bay Area reported on Aug. 1 that a USPS mail carrier had been robbed just a few days earlier in the city's Richmond area, which is described as a "normally-quiet San Francisco neighborhood."
These are not just rare occurrences that have garnered unusual media attention. In a May 12 press release, the USPS confirmed that crime against postal workers has become a major issue.
"Incidents of letter carrier robberies are on the rise across the nation," the Postal Service said. Over the course of the entire 2022 fiscal year, 412 letter carriers were robbed on the job, according to the agency. In comparison, 305 robberies had already been reported in the first half of the 2023 fiscal year.
They're being targeted for their mail keys.
With most of these robberies, criminals are usually after one thing from USPS workers: their mail keys.
"You don't have to rob a bank anymore. You just rob your letter carrier, gain access to a blue collection box or a relay box, and boom, you have thousands of dollars," Postal Police Officer's Association (PPOA) President Frank Albergo told NBC-affiliate News4 in Washington, D.C.
According to Albergo, the keys stolen from mail carriers, also known as arrow keys, can typically open up multiple mailboxes in a community.
"These arrow keys give access to collection boxes, apartment panels, relay boxes, cluster boxes. So instead of getting a few letters, they are actually getting tubs and satchels of mail," he told News4.
In 2020, the Postal's Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that warned about the agency's management controls over these keys.
"Specifically, the number of arrow keys in circulation is unknown, and local units did not adequately report lost, stolen, or broken keys or maintain key inventories," the report stated. "Ineffective controls over arrow keys increase the risk that these items will be lost or stolen and not detected."
Mail theft is on the rise as a result.
As mail carriers continue to get robbed across the U.S., the risk of your mail getting stolen is rising. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPSIS) told CBS MoneyWatch in June that mail theft has been increasing as part of a broader national trend of "increased crime patterns."
The agency's law enforcement branch said it received roughly 300,000 complaints about stolen mail in 2021, which was more than double what had been reported a year prior.
The USPS also confirmed the "increase in high volume mail theft" in its May press release. According to the agency, there were 38,500 incidents of mail being stolen from mail receptacles in the 2022 fiscal year, and more than 25,000 incidents in the first half of the 2023 fiscal year.
"As crime rises, so do the threats against our public servants," Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement at the time. "The men and women of the Postal Service are walking our nation's streets every day to fulfill our mission of delivering mail and packages to the American people. Every Postal employee deserves to work in safety and to be free from targeting by criminals seeking to access the public's mail."
The USPS is working to crack down on this problem.
The USPS and the USPSIS are working to try to stop the rise of mail theft in its tracks. In May, the agency announced that it would be rolling out expanded crime prevention measures to "protect postal employees and the security of the national mail and packages."
These new actions are being brought forth through their joint Project Safe Delivery initiative, which is focused on reducing letter carrier robberies and mail theft, according to the May 12 press release.
"We're doubling down on our efforts to protect our Postal employees and the security of the mail. We are hardening targets—both physical and digital—to make them less desirable to thieves and working with our law enforcement partners to bring perpetrators to justice," USPSIS Chief Gary Barksdale said in a statement.
A major part of these new measures is centered around the keys criminals are often after when attacking carriers.
"Criminals use Arrow and MAL keys to steal mail from secure mail receptacles to commit financial crimes, including altering checks to commit check fraud. To make Arrow Keys less valuable for criminals, the Postal Service will replace 49,000 antiquated arrow locks with electronic locks," the agency explained.