After a Tuesday report in The Ohio Star about Columbus’ ongoing issues of mail carrier robberies, the Postal Police Officers Association (PPOA) tells The Star that the problem is an epidemic.
“The Postal Inspection Service data revealed that mail theft reports soared by 600% over three years, from about 25,000 in 2017 to roughly 177,000 through August of 2020,” Frank Albergo said. “But when asked to explain the apparent explosion in mail theft, the Inspection Service backtracked and said the figures might be inaccurate.”
The PPOA represents uniformed police officers employed by the United States Postal Inspection Service.
“[Postal Police Officers] (PPOs) are a highly trained uniformed police force specializing in mail theft prevention and protection of postal employees,” Albergo said.
But as the spike in mail crimes took place, Albergo said PPOs were pulled off the job.
“PPOs, for years, were conducting mail theft prevention patrols by using data to target specific zip codes where mail theft was most prevalent. Unsurprisingly, it was working,” Albergo told The Star. “But then on August 25, 2020, the Postal Service reinterpreted enabling statute in order to decrease postal police law enforcement jurisdiction thereby ending all postal police patrolling activities.”
“Essentially, the Postal Service defunded its own uniformed police force in the midst of a mail theft epidemic,” he continued.
The robberies happen in various ways.
In Phoenix, Arizona, criminals in black masks followed a Postal Service vehicle into the restricted area behind the Post Office, snatching treys of mail and driving off.
As reported by The Star, some mail thieves are more brazen. In Columbus, mail carriers are being held up at gunpoint, and their universal mailbox keys stolen.
Stolen mail under any circumstance is a growing problem.
A report from the USPS Office of the Inspector General in May of last year said the following:
From March 2020 through February 2021, the Postal Inspection Service received 299,020 mail theft complaints, which was an increase of 184,564 (161 percent) complaints compared to the same period last year. Despite this increase, the number of complaints resulting in a case did not change significantly compared to the prior 12 months. Specifically, from March 2020 through February 2021, the Postal Inspection Service opened 1,090 mail theft cases, representing 0.4 percent of the total complaints received. From March 2019 through February 2020, the Postal Inspection Service opened 1,139 mail theft cases, representing 0.9 percent of the total complaints received.
“This means that mail theft complaints increased by nearly 1,100% from 25,000 in 2017 to 299,000 from March 2020 through February 2021,” Albergo said.
There is a vast underground market for stolen checks, too.
A study from Georgia State University’s Evidence Based Cybersecurity Research Group tracked 60 “black-market communication channels” online
The group found that in September 2021, the market for stolen checks online was $10.6 million. In October, that number was $11.6 million.
“But again, these values likely represent a small share of the actual amount of money being stolen from victims because criminals often rewrite the checks for much higher amounts,” the researchers found.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mail Time” by Joel Moisa.