One day last November, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier was busy walking in mail route in the city of Brooklyn, New York. As he was opening a mail storage box, someone tried to steal his key. These special keys can be used to unlock mail collection boxes, hence why they are highly coveted by criminals seeking to steal mail. After a struggle, the robber stole the key and pulled a gun on the mail carrier. “It’s crazy that things like this are happening,” said John Cruz, president of the local letter carriers union. “We need more protection out there.”

The Brooklyn incident may have seemed extreme and out of the blue, but it wasn’t the only incident recently. Criminals across the country are increasingly targeting mail carriers.

Between 2018 and 2021, robberies of mail carriers more than tripled, and robberies involving a gun more than quadrupled, according to U.S. Postal Inspection Service data. These incidents are expected to continue to increase. The surge in letter carrier robberies is fueled by several factors including the economic impact of COVID, the growth in USPS parcel volume amid the rise of e-commerce and the mailing of government checks related to aid programs. The increase in carrier robberies has come at a time when many parts of the country have seen a sharp rise in other violent crimes such as murders.

Mail theft has also risen sharply in recent years. According to the USPS Office of Inspector General, the Postal Inspection Service received more than 299,000 mail theft complaints from March 2020 through February 2021 — an increase of 184,500 complaints (161 percent) compared to the same period the previous year. Frank Albergo, president of the Postal Police Officers Association, said he believes a move to sideline postal police officers is contributing to the surge in mail carrier robberies. It appears that the USPS will try to reverse the course and focus on having these postal police officers protect the mail carriers for safety and security.

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