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Robberies and Other Crimes Against Postal Service Workers Are Up—What’s Being Done About It?

Posted on May 30, 2024

Many of us have been the victims of porch piracy—the theft of packages and mail left at our door. But you may be surprised to hear that U.S. Postal Service workers themselves, as well as USPS buildings, are also targeted for theft. Serious crimes, including robberies against Postal Service letter carriers, have increased in recent years, raising concerns about delivery workers’ safety as well as the security of the mail they carry. 

Today’s WatchBlog post looks at our new report about crimes against letter carriers and efforts to respond to them. 


USPS mail carrier


Cases of serious crimes against USPS employees and property

In recent years, letter carriers in D.C., Chicago, Portland, and other places have been robbed at gunpoint. USPS facilities and collection boxes across the country have also been broken into. Why attack USPS? These thieves want your mail—including personal checks which can be altered and cashed or sold online.

Among the crimes against postal workers, robbery was the fastest growing and most common. There were about 600 reported cases of robbery against postal workers in FY 2023, up nearly sevenfold from FY 2019. Also in FY 2023 there were about 400 assault and 200 burglary cases. 


Bar chart showing the growth in crimes against USPS workers and facilities, including robberies and burglaries.

Some of these crimes are “smash-and-grab,” but criminals are also getting more sophisticated. We found that robbers have increasingly targeted the universal keys (known as “arrow keys”) that USPS employees use to access mailboxes. Criminals who have these keys can steal mail from multiple mailboxes.

We also found that guns have been increasingly present during these robberies.

It would be easy to think these crimes only happen in cities. But they can happen anywhere across the country. The widespread nature of these crimes makes it challenging for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—the law enforcement arm of USPS—to investigate and prevent.

What’s being done to protect USPS workers?

Local law enforcement officials are often the first to respond to the scene of crimes against USPS employees and property, but investigations fall to postal inspectors.

Inspection Service officials told us that postal inspectors have recently organized special operations in areas where robberies and other serious crimes have increased. The goal of these efforts, which began in May 2023, is to surge resources into an area to disrupt and prevent crimes, gather information about crime trends, and arrest criminal suspects. Postal inspectors also provide guidance to USPS employees on how to protect themselves from crime.

Separately, postal police provide physical security at USPS facilities. They are most often stationed at larger facilities, like processing and distribution facilities, and in some cases may respond to incidents at nearby USPS facilities.

What more should be done?

We looked at the Inspection Service’s efforts to respond to these growing crimes. Specifically, we looked at how it determined where to focus its law enforcement workforce. We found that it hasn’t documented how it makes decisions on the size and location of this workforce across its divisions. Documenting workforce decision-making could help ensure law enforcement resources are allocated where they’re needed most. We also found that the Inspection Service hasn’t assessed its postal police workforce needs since 2011—including which facilities need a security force. This and better documentation could also improve efforts to protect postal employees.

Learn more about the increase in robberies and other crimes against USPS employees and property, and efforts to combat them by reading our new report.

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