CHICAGO – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a follow-up letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to institute additional safety measures and investigate the continued uptick in attacks against mail carriers as they complete their routes. In addition to the direct trauma to letter carrier victims, these crimes may have downstream effects such as exacerbating staffing shortages, leaving “delivery deserts” and causing dangerous delays in medication and other critical deliveries.
“On August 1, in the middle of the afternoon, an on-duty letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) reportedly was shot on the northside of Chicago during an armed robbery. Fifteen minutes later, near the same area, a second letter carrier was robbed at gunpoint. The next day, two suspects, one armed with a handgun, robbed a letter carrier and stole their bag in Berwyn, a suburb west of Chicago,” Durbin wrote. “This violence against letter carriers, theft of mail, and any related crimes that result from the theft of mail are unacceptable and must be stopped.”
In his letter, Durbin also emphasized that the security of postal workers is closely tied to the security of elections. While mail-in ballots may not be the intended target of perpetrators, ballots can easily be stolen from collection boxes and mail carriers along with the targeted items.
“It also is obvious that the security of the mail is directly related to the security of our elections, as the use of voting by mail continues to expand. Ballots may not be the target of mail thieves, but they could easily get swept up in letters stolen from carriers or collection boxes. Every time a ballot is not delivered to its intended location, a voter is disenfranchised, and confidence in the outcome of our elections is undermined,” Durbin wrote.
Today’s letter follows up on Durbin’s April request for information about what actions DOJ and USPS are taking to respond to the increase in armed robberies of letter carriers. Durbin urged USPS to reduce incentives for mail robbery by requiring two-factor authentication on cluster mailboxes rather than relying on arrow keys that allow access to all area mailboxes. While USPS did begin instituting two-factor authentication following Durbin’s suggestion, DOJ did not offer an adequate response about its work alongside USPS to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
“I wrote to you in April asking what actions you have taken to address the alarming increase in letter carrier robberies. In particular, I urged USPS to reinstate a system of local area crime alerts and reduce the incentive for this crime by updating cluster mailboxes to require two-factor authentication. I urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prioritize enforcement of federal laws applicable to these reprehensible assaults on the men and women who deliver the nation’s mail,” Durbin continued.
“In response, USPS cited a nationwide initiative to replace arrow locks with electronic locks that require two-factor identification… DOJ did not provide an informative response about its efforts to work with USPS and USPIS [U.S. Postal Inspection Service] to hold accountable those committing these crimes,” Durbin wrote.
Durbin concluded his letter by requesting detailed responses to questions of how USPS and DOJ will prevent and address letter carrier robberies, mail, theft, and related crimes—as well as their effects on election security—including internal measures to track arrow keys and develop statistics on armed robberies, efforts to inform the public of measures they can take to secure their mail, and the rollout of hardened blue collection boxes.