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Big Rewards, High-Tech Tools, New Collection Boxes Power Mail Theft Crackdown
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By Anya Ellis, Berkeley Correspondent
Published 5 months ago on
November 16, 2023

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The U.S. Postal Service says that its Project Safe Delivery campaign is paying off with more secure deliveries and 600 arrests across the country.

The campaign is a team effort involving the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and includes high-security locks and boxes.

The campaign also offers unprecedented rewards of $100,000 to $250,000 for information leading to arrests for crimes such as attacks on mail carriers, post office burglaries, and postage/metering tampering.

“As our nation continues to address a sustained crime wave, our targeted focus to crack down on postal crime is progressing,” said Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Louis DeJoy.

“The safety of our letter carriers — and all postal employees — is our top priority. We will continue to work steadfastly with our law enforcement partners to increase the safety of our employees and protect the sanctity of the nation’s mail.”

10,000 High-Security Blue Collection Boxes for Fresno County

Project Safe Delivery came about because of a rise in postal crimes, including threats and attacks on postal carriers and mail theft.

As part of the effort, more than 10,000 high-security blue collection boxes are being installed throughout Fresno County, according to Fresno Postal Inspector Sonia Perez.

The enhanced collection boxes, many in place since Project Safe Delivery’s May launch, make access more difficult for those attempting mail theft. Perez said some collection boxes may be removed entirely in areas where it doesn’t affect mail access.

(GV Wire/Paul Marshall. Source: U.S. Postal Inspection Service)

Project Safe Delivery, which involves multiple USPS departments, focuses on investigative and preventive action. Since the program’s launch, law enforcement has completed targeted surges in regions facing increased postal crime, installed the same high-security blue collection boxes as those coming to Fresno, replaced antiqued arrow locks with electric locks, implemented electric and in-person authentication procedures, and increased package controls.

More Than 600 Arrests Nationwide

Law enforcement has focused efforts on Chicago, San Francisco, and cities across Ohio, which has led to more than 600 individuals being arrested. This includes 109 arrests for robbery and more than 530 arrests for mail theft. The efforts also included prevention activities, employee safety education, and theft deterrents.

USPS has replaced more than 6,500 antiquated locks with electronic locks nationwide to help combat a rise in letter carrier robberies; robbers targeted carriers for their keys in order to steal mail from collection boxes and commit financial crimes, such as altering checks. In coming months, the Postal Service plans to deploy an additional 42,500 electronic locks nationwide to help fight this.

The Postal Service increased the authentication process for all change of address submissions, implementing electronic and in-person procedures. Since expanding enhanced in-person change of address protocols and implementing additional identity verification services for online change of addresses, fraudulent submissions have decreased by more than 99.3% compared to the same period last year.

In addition, the USPS developed a sophisticated system to identify, intercept, and retain counterfeit or hijacked labels on packages, using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analysis. Counterfeit package postage has dropped by more than 50% since the start of the program.

Turning up the Pressure on Mail Thieves, Violent Attackers

“We have effectively focused our efforts with USPS on hardening both physical and digital targets to combat threats to postal employees and secure the mail.  We continue to turn up the pressure and put potential perpetrators on notice: If you attack Postal employees, steal the mail, or commit other postal crimes, Postal Inspectors will bring you to justice,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.

“We ask that the public assist us with our mission,” he continued. “Our rewards for information have increased substantially, highlighting the importance of the safety and security of our employees and the mail. If you see something, say something, and help us bring to justice those that cause harm to postal employees, steal mail, or commit other postal crimes.”

Rewards of $150,000 to $250,000

The Inspection Service promises rewards for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a perpetrator of a mail crime. This includes $250,000 for the homicide of a postal service employee, $150,000 for assault on postal employees, $150,000 for robbery or attempted robbery of any custodian of mail, $100,000 for burglary of a post office, $100,000 for theft of mail, and $100,000 for postage or meter tampering.

“If you see something suspicious… always report it not only to local law enforcement but also our hotline: 877-876-2455 or going to www.uspis.gov/report,” said Perez, Fresno’s postal inspector.

“We follow up on documentation on if they see a certain car or have video or if there are fraudulent transactions on stolen items. That’s how we are able to more or less identify these criminals and arrest them, take to the court to process and prosecute them.”

 

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Anya Ellis,
Reporter/Researcher
Anya Ellis began working for GV Wire in July 2023. The daughter of journalists, Anya is a Fresno native and Buchanan High School graduate. She is currently at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in film and media studies and minoring in creative writing. She plans to pursue her masters in screenwriting after graduating. You can contact Anya at anya.ellis@gvwire.com.

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