Postal Service fights back against crime

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) recently gave an update on its Project Safe Delivery.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) recently gave an update on its Project Safe Delivery. It has been a year-long effort by the agency to prevent mail theft, as well as on letter carriers. For details, Federal News Network’s Eric White spoke with Michael Martel from the USPIS on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview Transcript: 

Eric White Absolutely. So why don’t we just start from the beginning? Tell me about Project Safe Delivery and what it is aiming to do. And then we can kind of get into what it has done.

Michael Martel Sure. So last May, Project Safe Delivery was launched. And that is a joint initiative between the Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service to address the recent rise in threats and attacks on our letter carriers and mail theft incidents. And of course, to keep the nation’s mail and packages safe.

Eric White And how does it go about doing that when you say it shows initiative? Is it just mostly going after specifically those crimes, or is there just a more onus on it? Because that sounds like it should just be, you know, business as usual for the inspection service?

Michael Martel Actually it’s not. This is, like I said, a joint venture between the postal service and the inspection service. So, we’re not going at it alone here. So, it employs a holistic approach to address these crimes. We seek to, you know, protect postal employees and the mail stream, prevent incidents from occurring through education and awareness. And of course, as postal inspectors enforce the laws that protect the nation’s mail stream.

Eric White Gotcha. Okay. So, this is in addition, you’re getting some help from other agencies and law enforcement partners. Who would those partners be? Is that local and other federal enforcement agencies, or who else are you working with?

Michael Martel First and foremost, the Postal Service. They’re out there delivering every day, and they’re the ones that are upgrading sort of the physical security of our blue collection boxes and locks and, you know, the letter carriers that are there serving the American people in the street every day. But, of course, federal law enforcement partners to state and local law enforcement partners, as well as prosecutors, federal, state and local prosecutors as well. All of those parties are really helping us make a difference here.

Eric White Gotcha. Okay. And before I promise, we’ll get to the results shortly. But, you know, just on background again, you had mentioned the rise in crimes against postal workers and mail theft incidents. Was there a catalyst that you all really identified that before, you know, something was finally said, all right, we got to do something about this. You know, what was the thought process there before initiating Project safe delivery?

Michael Martel So really, after coming out of the pandemic, after the pandemic, we saw a rise in letter carrier robberies and associated mail theft. So, robberies of our carriers for access devices to the mail stream, those individuals that would sell that access device or use it to steal mail themselves and commit associated financial crimes.

Eric White Gotcha. Okay. And you all were just paying attention to and just saw that the numbers were just creeping up and up and thought, okay, we really got to do something about this. And, you know, this isn’t business as usual.

Michael Martel Well, absolutely. So, remember, letter carriers are fellow postal employees to us, and the inspection service and letter carriers are out there on the street serving the American people day in and day out. They’re being accosted just trying to do their jobs. And that’s something that we take to heart here at the inspection service. And we really need to provide them the level of protection they deserve.

Eric White We’re speaking with Michael Martel, who is with the US Postal Inspection Service. So, let’s get into what has been the effect so far. You all have put out an update on exactly what you all have found and how you have stepped up enforcement. What have you all been able to accomplish so far?

Michael Martel When it comes to upgrades to protect the mail stream, the Postal Service has installed over 15,000 high security blue collection boxes. Those boxes look the same on the outside but feature a number of upgrades on the inside to defend against a variety of attacks. And they’ve also installed over 30,000 electronic locking mechanisms. And that electronic component provides a lot of capability when it comes to being able to secure the mail stream after an incident. And of course, thwarting these criminals, taking away the very thing that thereafter in these robberies. And that’s access to the mail stream.

Eric White Gotcha. And as far as protecting the mail carriers themselves, what actions have been taken in way of ensuring that these postal employees that you mentioned are fully protected and that the laws going against them are there’s usually the complaint of, you know, these crimes are perpetrated and then nothing really happens about them. How are you all making sure that you see through the end that enforcement is taking place?

Michael Martel That couldn’t be further from the truth. So as part of Project Safe Delivery, we’ve made over 213 arrests since the start of the project for specific postal related robberies. And we’ve made well over 1000 arrests since the start of the initiative in regard to mail theft. And. And really, I have some friends here over the past six months. So, in the past six months, letter carrier robberies or postal related robberies are down by 21% versus the same time period the previous year, and number of arrests associated with postal robberies are up 72% again in that same time period. And what we’re seeing as well is mail thefts. Complaints are down about 35% in that time period. What that’s doing is showing these efforts are paying off and they’re making a difference.

Eric White Gotcha. And what about the folks that actually affects I know that you had mentioned complaints of mail theft have gone down, but what about the, the postal carriers themselves? Are you hearing positive results from them? And they feel a little bit safer and not as vulnerable when they are out there, like you said, just doing their jobs.

Michael Martel I think there’s always progress to be made there. I think those numbers sort of speak for themselves. But in addition to those, something that that’s been highly effective is the large increase in the reward program for postal related crimes. So as of right now, if you rob one of our postal Service letter carriers, there is a price of up to $150,000 on your head after that incident. That’s more than triple than it was before the program rolled out.

Eric White And more than likely, what you’re stealing from that mail carrier is not going to be worth 150 grand if I’m if that’s usually the case, right?

Michael Martel No, I mean, you know, I don’t know what your electric bill is worth, but, you know, if they want that, they can have it.

Eric White And as far as technologies, you had mentioned the new high security blue collection boxes, electric lock mechanisms, you know, obviously, you know, you may not want to give away too many secrets, but are there other areas that you all are looking into as far as improving the actual technology that the Postal Service uses and ways to secure that?

Michael Martel Of course, Eric, we’re always evaluating the current environment and looking for ways that we can enhance the security of the mail stream and the upgrades that you just mentioned. Not only are we putting those items out, but as they’re rolling out, we’re doing so strategically and to maximize their effect out on the streets. And as of right now, high security collection boxes and those electronic locking mechanisms have been deployed to all 50 states.

Eric White And you’re getting some help as well from technology that the Postal Service isn’t even responsible for. You know, everybody has a ring camera now on their front of their door mostly, and I’m sure that they have caught several incidents of people breaking into mailboxes or even going after postal employees. Are you all utilizing any other technologies that, as I said, you know, aren’t necessarily yours, but you’ll take any help you can get?

Michael Martel I mean, it brings up a greater point. The public can, of course, help us in our mission to keep your letter carrier safe. They’re serving you in your community on a daily basis. So, if you have ring doorbell footage of an incident, reach out to the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455. Then in addition to that, you can keep an eye out for your letter carrier. If you see someone suspicious around a mail receptacle or following your letter carrier, call 911 and then report it to the inspection service.

Eric White And let’s talk timeline. You know, this is obviously something that you all are happy about the results that you’re seeing. Is this going to be a continued effort for the foreseeable future, or is this going to just kind of be the norm as we go further?

Michael Martel Well, absolutely. We are not done. There are thousands more of these blue boxes and electronic locking mechanisms to be deployed, and many more efforts across the nation to, of course, enforce the law that protect the nation’s mail system in the form of these law enforcement surges. And what that is done is the Postal Inspection Service is sending national law enforcement personnel, postal inspectors and other personnel to the hardest hit areas for concentrated efforts, and we’re seeing great results there as well.

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