By Emilie St. John
COMPTON – Postal workers staged a protest to bring attention to the violence they face while delivering mail in the city Oct. 4.
Workers carried signs declaring “protect our letter carriers” as cars passed by honking in support.
The National Association of Letter Carriers assembled outside Compton’s main post office on Santa Fe Avenue to bring awareness to crimes against letter carriers.
“This problem is growing,” Brian Renfroe, the union president, said in a speech to workers at the rally. Targeted armed robberies, assaults and shootings, he said, have become “part of our job.”
Renfroe called for the federal government to help. An estimated 14% of crimes against letter carriers have been federally prosecuted and resulted in an arrest, he said.
“You know what that tells me?” he asked. “That 86% of the people that do this get away with it. That has to change.”
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters represents Compton and when her office was contacted for comment there was response prior to deadline.
According to the letter carriers, between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022 (the Postal Service’s 2022 fiscal year), 412 letter carriers were robbed while on duty. That has increased to 305 incidents from Oct. 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023 (the first half of the current fiscal year), the Postal Service said in May.
Mail thefts, including from blue collection boxes, rose from 38,500 in fiscal year 2022 to more than 25,000 in the first half the current fiscal year, the Postal Service said.
“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,” said Michael Martel, U.S. postal inspector and national public information officer for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in a earlier interview. The Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement, crime prevention and security arm of the Postal Service.
Keisha Lewis, a union representative who oversees carriers in Nevada, California, Hawaii and Guam, said she receives two to three emails every week about a letter carrier being robbed or attacked.
The association believes that the attacks on letter carriers increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think what happened is that during COVID, there was a lot of valuable stuff in the mail, and all the legislation that happened, stimulus checks, people have come up with these elaborate check washing schemes,” Renfroe said. “One of the things that’s very concerning is that a lot of these crimes seem to be organized. So, you’ve got the people that are robbing letter carriers, not necessarily the people that are utilizing those checks once they get their hands on them. So, there’s a number of layers to it.”
Legislation called the Postal Police Reform Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in May that would give Postal Police officers more authority to protect the mail system.
“We must do more to combat rising mail crime, and that starts by getting our postal police back on the street where they can more effectively do their jobs,” said Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino, a Republican from New York, who introduced the bill. “The longer this senseless directive stays in place, the longer mail theft and violence against mail carriers continues to escalate.”
The bill would reverse a 2020 directive from the chief postal inspector restricting postal police officers to physical postal locations and preventing officers from fully executing their duty to ensure public safety within the nation’s mail system.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.