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Taylor Whitt didn’t expect she’d be putting her life on the line when she became a letter carrier.
A normal route down McMicken Avenue turned into an assault. And it happened again: She was later robbed while delivering mail not long after.
« It’s something I do deal with now, » she said of her experiences, after which she received a PTSD diagnosis. « It is a constant struggle. »
Whitt’s story – along with those of the other 412 United States Postal Service mail carriers who were assaulted or robbed in 2022 – is why National Association of Letter Carriers members rallied Wednesday at Fountain Square. The union is calling for more protection for letter carriers, prosecution for the assailants and help from elected officials for more prioritization of postal workers in criminal justice.
« This increase in violence should come with increased protection, » union president Brian Renfroe told rally attendees. « Lately, it feels like we (postal workers) only have each other. »
Often when mail carriers are robbed criminals are looking for an « arrow key, » which can open all the blue collection boxes in a particular area. With access to collection boxes, criminals typically look for envelopes containing cash or checks. They then « wash » or erase the check information and enter a new amount and recipient.
More: Teen charged in Colerain Township mail carrier robbery
Any crime committed against a postal worker is a federal crime. It takes a joint investigation between the Postal Inspection Service, the Attorney General and a local police force to hand over the case to federal prosecutors.
Even that’s not working, Renfroe said. He said since 2020, only 14% of crimes committed against letter carriers were prosecuted: « It’s appalling and out of control … This should not be, and we should not let it be. »
Members of Cincinnati’s Branch 43 of the National Association of Letter Carriers have been subjected to 17 different assaults or robberies since January of 2022, according to the union. That’s about one of every 100 of the chapter’s members.
Branch president Ted Thompson called that number an outrage: « We’re demanding protection, prosecution and justice, » he said. « Letter carriers shouldn’t have to be fearful. »
The union is asking for help from law enforcement, but also from the postal service.
The Enquirer asked the postal service to provide information regarding what officials are doing to keep workers safe. The service provided a prewritten media statement that said a new safety plan would be implemented in the next fiscal year.
« The Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service have seen an increase in robberies of letter carriers and mail theft, as crime has risen across the country. This is why Project Safe Delivery was launched on May 12, 2023, to keep our letter carriers and the mail safe from criminals, » the statement reads. « The U.S. Postal Inspection Service takes every opportunity available to educate the American public on mail theft, fraud, and other crimes impacting the public; to share our prevention messaging; and to proactively alert the public on crime trends in the country. »
More: Postal Service sued by postal police officer union after limiting their powers
Since the uptick in letter carrier robberies, the postal service has released some details about the safety plan, which includes installing 12,000 high-security blue collection boxes nationwide and implementing 49,000 electronic locks to replace antiquated arrow locks.
It will also take measures to address change of address fraud and counterfeit stamp usage.
U.S. Rep. Greg Landsman, D-Mount Washington, told rally attendees lawmakers are working with letter carriers and the postal service to make these promises a reality.
« We’ve got to get these keys to (workers) as soon as humanly possible, » Landsman said. « We need to protect our letter carriers. »
Whitt said she loves her job. But for her and the hundreds of other USPS workers who have become victims of violent crime, help can’t come soon enough.
« I feel like there is awareness out there – everybody knows, » she said. « Enough is enough. »
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Letter carrier union wants more law enforcement as workers assaulted
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