If you really think about it, we put a lot of faith in the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). From sensitive documents containing private information to thousands of dollars in monthly rent checks, there are plenty of highly important things we send through the mail. Nevertheless, we count on postal workers to get these items safely to their destination and into the hands of the intended recipients. Unfortunately, that's not always what happens. In fact, USPS employees are warning that there is a major problem concerning the safety of your mail, and it's only getting worse. Read on to find out the latest warning from the Postal Service.
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The Postal Service has been battling a number of challenges lately.
The USPS has been facing myriad issues over the last few years. The agency has battled staffing shortages and financial shortcomings that have only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. And these challenges have trickled down to customers, who have been experiencing mailing delays and increased shipping costs. The situation became so challenging that President Joe Biden signed the Postal Service Reform Act on April 6, which is set to provide nearly $50 billion in relief to the USPS over the next 10 years as an attempt to help the agency get back on solid footing.
Thousands of USPS workers have been attacked in the last few years.
But these are hardly the only struggles the Postal Service is facing. New data from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) indicates that robberies and assaults against mail carriers are on the rise, according to NBC-affiliate News 4 in Washington, D.C. Per the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, there have been more than 2,000 robberies and assaults targeting postal carriers since 2020.
These attacks are likely connected to mail theft, which has also spiked during the pandemic, News 4 reported. According to the Inspector General of the USPS, mail theft complaints increased by 161 percent from March 2020 to Feb. 2021. During this time, the USPIS received nearly 300,000 complaints of mail theft.
"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 the news outlet, explaining that thieves are usually in search of an arrow key. '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."
But officials say they are being kept from stopping these crimes.
The rise in mail theft and attacks on postal carriers isn't the full scope of the problem. The USPS postal police said the problem is worsening because they are being sidelined while crime rises, ABC 7 in Chicago, Illinois, recently reported. According to the news outlet, there used to be 2,700 Postal Police Officers (PPOs) but that number has dwindled down to just 400.
It isn't just the reduced number of officers. Retired Postal Police Officer James Bjork told ABC 7 that protecting postal carriers on their routes used to be part of an PPO's job until a 2020 USPIS policy clarification pulled officers from the street and limited their jurisdiction to protecting postal service facilities.
"What they've done is shift the burden to local police departments. Local police departments obviously have other things to worry about," Albergo told ABC 7, while PPOs are now "being handcuffed postal facilities," he added.
The USPIS says there are still officers in charge of handling mail theft and carrier attacks.
A USPIS spokesperson told News 4 that the jurisdiction of PPOs "has not changed," despite the clarification. According to the law enforcement branch, U.S. Postal Inspectors are responsible for overseeing criminal investigations, which include mail thefts and assaults of postal carriers.
"The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has federal law enforcement officers, U.S. Postal Inspectors, who enforce approximately 200 federal laws that cover the misuse of the mail and attacks on the postal system, its employees, and its infrastructure," the spokesperson said.
On the other hand, USPIS says PPOs are responsible for providing "uniformed protection for Postal Service property," which was first clarified in 2017 before being put into written communication by the inspection branch in 2020. Some say this has caused more problems than it has solved, however.
"When they benched postal police officers, there was a rise in mail theft, and it's just been going up and up and up and up, and we're on the sidelines watching this debacle unfold," Albergo told News 4. "Put the PPOs back out on the street. Let them protect the mail. Let them protect letter carrier."
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