USPS Just Issued an Urgent New Warning About This Major Mail Problem
The postal agency has finally responded to questions about this pressing concern.
Checking our mailbox every day is so second nature to most of us that we don't often think twice about the work that goes into it. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is responsible for shipping and delivering billions of pieces of mail across the country every year, and it's certainly no easy feat. Couple that with recent budget cuts and staffing shortages, and you're bound to have quite a few problems on your hands.
The Postal Service has tried to combat some of these larger issues by making a number of changes to its service, from hiking prices up to slowing delivery times—and even President Joe Biden has tried lending a hand by passing the Postal Service Reform Act in April, which is set to provide $50 billion in relief to the USPS over the next 10 years. Despite all this, the USPS has now had to issue a new warning on a problem that is impacting more and more customers as time goes on. Read on to find out what the postal agency is issuing alerts about now.
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The Postal Service has issued a number of pressing warnings.
Amid the myriad issues the USPS is battling, the agency just sent a warning to customers about an increase in animal attacks against workers. According to the the Postal Service, more than 5,400 postal employees were attacked by dogs in the U.S. in 2021 alone. And major cities such as Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, and Chicago, are home to some of the worst offenders.
"From nips and bites to vicious attacks, aggressive dog behavior poses a serious threat to postal employees and the public," the USPS said at the time.
Some warnings are less about people's wellbeing, and more about their wallets. Last month, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued an "uncomfortable" warning about USPS price hikes. "While our pricing decisions are ultimately made under the authority of the Board of Governors, in the near term, I will most likely be advocating for these increases," he said. "I believe we have been severely damaged by at least 10 years of a defective pricing model, which cannot be satisfied by one or two annual price increases, especially in this inflationary environment."
A member of Congress recently blasted the agency for a different issue impacting customers.
Some leaders across the U.S. have turned their attention to a different problem impacting customers: mail theft. On May 16, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a representative for Washington, D.C., sent a letter to the USPS and DeJoy about an apparent increase in mail theft—particularly in regards to stolen checks.
"A constituent recently contacted my office after checks they put in a blue collection box were stolen," the Congresswoman wrote to the agency. "Thieves changed the payees and dollar amounts on the checks, and tens of thousands of dollars were stolen from my constituent's account."
According to Norton, thieves appear to be stealing checks out of the mail system through the use of stolen universal keys, also known as arrow keys. In her letter, the Congresswoman cited a 2020 report from the USPS Inspector General, who warned about a lack of control from the agency over these keys, which allow access to a number of secure areas, including "collection boxes, outdoor parcel lockers, cluster box units, and apartment panels."
The USPS has now responded to these concerns.
In her letter, Norton requested the USPS respond by May 30, detailing plans and steps it is taking to "remedy the problem" of mail theft. But while the Postal Service didn't meet this deadline, Norton did receive a response from the agency on June 6. James Cari, a government relations representative for the USPS, said that in the Washington, D.C. area, alongside most other major metropolitan areas, the agency has "seen an increase in mail theft activity over the past few years."
Inspectors working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the postal agency's law enforcement arm, oversaw 1,079 mail theft cases throughout the country in 2021, according to Cari. These cases resulted in 1,511 arrests and 1,263 convictions. But these are only cases inspectors took action against last year, which might have occurred before 2021 as "convictions do not always occur in the same fiscal year as the arrests," Cari noted. Earlier this year, the USPIS reported that it had received 299,020 complaints of mail theft between March 2020 and Feb. 2021—which was a 161 percent jump from the prior year.
"The Postal Inspection Service reports that recent trends in mail theft are likely attributable to a variety of factors, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a growth in parcel volume and the mailing of economic impact payments and unemployment insurance payments," Cari told Norton.
But the agency said it is working to fix this worsening problem.
The Postal Service has apparently been working to combat the increase in mail thefts. In the Greater Washington area, Cari told Norton that inspectors have worked with the USPS to "install security modifications and infrastructure upgrades." According to the agency, these efforts have included "hardening collection boxes, reinforcing Post Office lobby walls for added security, installing cameras in postal facilities, and prioritizing investigations linked to stolen checks that are subsequently washed, altered, and negotiated for payment."
But in terms of concerns over its arrow keys, Cari said the agency "strictly controls" the keys that access mailboxes. According to the USPS, employees are required to immediately report if a key has been lost or stoles, and "considerable effort is expended" to make sure workers are adhering to these policies.
"You can be assured that we understand the extent to which our customers depend upon the Postal Service, and if they suspect mail theft or tampering, they are encouraged to contact the Postal Inspection Service," Cari wrote.
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