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U.S. Postal Service rolls out crime prevention plan to address spike in mail theft

May. 17, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will replace tens of thousands of keys used by letter carriers and will install high security collection boxes, among other important upgrades, to prevent the rise of mail theft, according to Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng

Over the past year, Meng has urged the Postal Service to combat the problem in Queens after she received many complaints from constituents who have been victims of mail theft. These include thieves stealing and altering their checks for thousands of dollars and taking their personal information that has resulted in financial fraud. 

Meng had sent letters to postal officials last July and December to demand action. She also introduced legislation last month to strengthen the Postal Service’s ability to go after criminal organizations driving the theft of mail and she is organizing a roundtable to shed light on local mail theft.  

“The spike in mail theft has impacted too many people in our borough and across the country and it’s time for the Postal Service to crack down harder on this despicable crime,” Meng said. 

Several years ago, the Postal Service retrofitted blue collection boxes in Queens with mail slots after Meng, in 2018, urged the agency to address “mail fishing” in the borough. The problem occurs when criminals place string connected to a sticky material into the collection boxes and “fish” out the envelopes. The narrower slots make it more difficult for thieves to steal the mail that is inside.

“Everybody deserves to receive their mail and those who deliver it are entitled to be safe. I will be watching and monitoring these improvements rolled out by the Postal Service, and hope that they will swiftly lead to improved security of our country’s mail. New Yorkers and the American public deserve it,” Meng said. 

The congresswoman thanked the agency for listening to her pleas and implementing a plan to stop robberies from occurring. Meng also thanked postal officials for their efforts to combat the increased attacks against letter carriers. 

The Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service held a joint briefing for Congress members and staff on these efforts on May 11.

Postal Inspection Service Chief Gary Barksdale said the agency is “doubling down” on its efforts to protect postal employees and the security of the mail. 

“We are hardening targets — both physical and digital — to make them less desirable to thieves and working with our law enforcement partners to bring perpetrators to justice,” Barksdale said. 

The Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service are expanding their Project Safe Delivery crime prevention initiative to protect Postal employees and facilities, prevent mail and package theft and enforce the law against individuals who perpetrate crimes against Postal employees or engage in mail and package theft.

The agency will install 12,000 high security blue collection boxes nationwide making access to their contents more difficult for criminals. These boxes are now being deployed in high security risk areas through the next fiscal year. The Postal Service will continue to evaluate replacing additional existing blue collection boxes with these enhanced boxes. 

According to the Postal Service, individuals use Arrow and MAL keys to steal mail from secure mail receptacles to commit financial crimes, including checks to commit fraud. To make Arrow Keys less valuable, the Postal Service will replace 49,000 arrow locks with electronic locks. 

New locks have been installed in select cities with installation to occur in additional major metropolitan areas soon. The Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service are also increasing Arrow Key accountability reviews in select high Postal crime areas.

The agency is also preventing change of address (COA) fraud by strengthening authentication processes for all methods of COA — electronic, and hard copy format whether by mail or in-person. 

Throughout the year, the Postal Inspection Service will continue to partner with federal, state, and local authorities to enforce the laws and bring individuals to justice. 

The Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service will continue to adapt to evolving security threats and implement expanded measures to safeguard postal employees and preserve the security of the mail that Postal Service customers expect and deserve. 

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