The post inspector in charge of Chicago said the Postal Police’s mission remains the same: to protect employees, customers and property.
“In any situation where someone takes something from you, you feel violated,” retired postman Alvin Charleston said.
He recalled being robbed of his mail keys on his route to Chicago.
“When he approached me he said to give me the keys, and that’s when he showed me the weapon he had,” he said.
“So those keys. They’re called arrow keys and they open all the blue collection boxes, all the apartment panels, the cluster boxes in a certain zip code,” said Frank Albergo, president of the Association of Postal Police Officers.
“They’re easy targets. The carriers don’t carry guns,” retired postal police officer James Bjork said.
He said protecting carriers on their routes was part of his job as a postal police officer.
“Day shift and afternoon shift officers would carry out courier protection patrols,” he said.
That changed in 2020 when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service clarified the law determining jurisdiction for postal police officers, limiting them to its service facilities, even if they are sworn federal law enforcement agents.
“The jurisdiction remains the same. The need to have them at our facilities, provided that the security aspect is fundamental to our overall mission. So you know, I don’t think the jurisdiction has changed. – he looked at it, he has got clarification. And now we’re focused on that, “said Bill Hedrick, Chief Inspector, US Postal Inspection Service, Chicago.
“It would be like telling the Chicago police to stay in the police station,” Bjork said.
“What they have done is transfer the burden to local police departments,” Albergo said. “The local police departments obviously have other things to worry about.”
The postal service has not escaped the current crime trend. The Chicago courier union president said a post office employee was robbed of his keys at gunpoint Monday in the Roseland neighborhood.
An analysis of the I-Team data shows that in 2020 the postal inspection service responded to more than 7,000 reports nationwide of violent crimes against post office employees. Since October, more than 165 couriers, including many in the Chicago area, have been victims of armed robbery, a significant increase from 2019.
From March 2020 to February 2021, there were 753 cases of postal fraud of the Postal Inspection Service and 1,090 cases of theft of mail from the Postal Inspection Service. The Chicago division handled 39 postal fraud cases during the same period, up from 29 the previous year. As for cases of theft, they handled 44, compared to 54.
According to Hinsdale Police, a man with a gun took the keys to a courier on Monday near Stough and Hinsdale Avenue. No arrests were made. The police report states that the stolen key is a “76 series key and could open all mailboxes” in Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Burr Ridge and part of Willowbrook.
Investigators claim those keys sell for up to $ 7,000.
“Any crime associated with the postal service, our employees or our customers that involves the mail is a priority for us,” said Hedrick.
“They have decimated our ranks by 20% since 2019,” said Albergo.
The inspector-in-charge from Chicago said that is not the case.
“The complement for Chicago has remained the same for the past 10 years for postal police officers,” Hedrick said.
A new training course for postal police officers is expected to begin in August. The first since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We exist to protect post office workers and the post office,” said Albergo. “But now we are being handcuffed to the post office.”
“Management’s responsibility is to ensure the safety of its employees,” said the retired Charleston postman.
The postal service is currently in contractual negotiations with the postal police union. Its members are also trying to get Congress to pass a bill to restore their judicial authority, which would allow them to once again patrol outside the postal facilities.
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