Durbin Urges DOJ, USPS To Work Together To Protect Letter Carriers And Better Investigate And Prosecute Armed Robberies
CHICAGO – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today held a news conference with members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to call on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and United States Postal Service (USPS) to take necessary action to respond to the increase in armed robberies of letter carriers. In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Durbin urged DOJ and USPS to work together to address the growing threat of armed robberies against USPS letter carriers—including by vigorously investigating these crimes and prosecuting those who commit them.
“It is critical that your respective agencies work together to better protect these public servants and ensure the security of our mail system,” Durbin wrote. “The motive for letter carrier robberies often is the theft of master or ‘arrow’ keys, and instituting a pilot program to update cluster boxes with new technology could only improve this dire situation. The prosecution of these crimes is also an important means of holding armed robbers accountable for their criminal activity and deterring future robberies. I urge DOJ to prioritize enforcement of these statutes and all other provisions applicable to these reprehensible assaults on the men and women who deliver the nation’s mail.”
The Postal Inspection Service reports that armed robberies of letter carriers increased sharply between 2018 and 2021, rising from 36 incidents to 154 incidents. The arrow keys can command thousands of dollars on the clandestine market because they allow access to cluster mailboxes and their contents, which include Social Security checks, prescriptions, and other valuable items. The new technology update Durbin urged USPS to institute would require two-factor authentication—a common security practice—for cluster mailboxes, which would render stolen arrow keys useless.
When a similar string of arrow key thefts took place in 2011, Durbin urged the former Postmaster General to implement a rapid alert system that informed carriers of the crimes committed in their vicinity. These alerts have been discontinued under the current Postmaster General.
DOJ has important tools already in the law that can help deter armed robberies against letter carriers. The law currently provides a penalty of up to 10 years for robbing, attempting to rob, or assaulting with intent to rob a letter carrier or other person having lawful charge, control, or custody of any mail matter or other property of the United States with the possibility of a 25-year-sentence if the victim is injured or in the case of a repeat offender. In addition, any person who receives or possesses property taken in such a robbery, knowing it to be unlawfully obtained, is subject to a penalty of up to 10 years.