NBC 5 Responds

At Least Five Chicago Mail Carriers Are Victims of Crime Each Week in Chicago, New Data Reveals

Leaders are coming together in hopes of finding a solution to combat crimes against letter carriers, resulting in a record-amount of stolen mail. One official is calling for more to be done.

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New data obtained by NBC 5 Responds shows a surge in attacks on Chicago mail carriers, coinciding with a record-number of check-fraud crimes reported across Cook County.

On average, five mail carriers are robbed in the Chicago-area every week, according to an analysis of Chicago Police Department crime data.

And those numbers have been on full display recently, with many brazen attacks on carriers and United States Postal Service (USPS) facilities across the city.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Post Office branch in Chicago’s Loop neighborhood was broken into by 18 men overnight, authorities said. Surveillance shows the men smash the front windows to the office, and wander around with head lamps, looking for mail to steal.

Then, in April, Chicago Police announced they were investigating 12 armed robberies targeting postal carriers, with crimes at all times of the day, scattered all across the city’s neighborhoods.

The entire mail force serving Chicago is on edge.  

“We have prayer every morning to cover ourselves, so we aren’t hurt on all of our routes,” a Chicago letter carrier told NBC 5 earlier this year.  

That letter carrier asked to remain anonymous out of fear she may be targeted for speaking out. 

She said the fear of having a target on her back lingers every day she runs her route.

“We don’t know what else to do because of the fact that this is happening so often,” the letter carrier said on Jan. 12.  

Police records obtained by NBC 5 Responds shows she’s right, these crimes are happening often. 

In fact, Chicago Police Department data shows a 40% increase in crimes against postal workers, from 2021 when there were 186 reported crimes, to 261 crimes reported in 2022. (NBC 5 only counted crimes where the victim listed USPS as their occupation, meaning these numbers may be an undercount.)  

It’s a pivot in the wrong direction, especially when considering how carriers were treated years ago. 

“Back then, it was unheard of: Touching a letter carrier, a federal employee, touching federal mail,” said Elise Foster, the President of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 11 in Chicago. 

Foster is pushing for action to put this problem to rest. 

“We need all help,” Foster said, imploring the public for its assistance in keeping an eye on carriers, and reporting crimes. “We need all help.” The reason thieves are going after postal workers is for your mail, and another statistic shows thieves are raking in valuables, all sent via post.

Cook County is experiencing a record-number of check fraud crimes due to mail theft, with more than 20,000 reported crimes last year alone, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

NBC 5 Responds found thieves bragging about their stolen Chicago riches online, and even employing the elderly and unhoused to commit these crimes. 

Dan Rudman, a co-owner of Taz Holdings, a recycling business, said he lost nearly $100,000 since October of 2022 after his clients’ mailed checks never reached him. Instead, they were washed, cashed and stolen straight from him and his employees. 

“We’re talking a $5,000 check, $2,000 check, and basically just signing the back and cashing it,” Rudman told NBC 5 Responds. “I mean there is no trust in the system anymore. If you can’t trust the mail anymore, then what’s it going to turn into? Just a junk service?”

There is a sudden surge of an old crime impacting residents and businesses alike across Chicago that have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen, all involving checks in the mail. Lexi Sutter has the story for NBC 5 Responds.

Local leaders have pledged that they are working on a fix. At a news conference last month, lawmakers raised awareness on the issue. 

“The victims here are not just the letter carriers, it’s the families who count on the mail for their daily lives,” Senator Dick Durbin said.   

That involvement has led to some potential progress with the USPS launching “Project Safe Delivery.” 

In a statement to NBC 5, USPS said that project includes “installing 12,000 high security blue collection boxes nationwide and replacing antiquated arrow locks with 49,000 electronic locks.”

This approach will hopefully phase out the long, sought-after “arrow keys” that thieves can use to unlock mailboxes across the city. 

As for protecting its people, USPS said its partnering with the Department of Justice and local police, adding that those accused of attacking carriers will “be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” including the possibility of facing federal charges. 

“It’s getting out of hand, and hopefully they can give us some win-win solutions to help our letter carriers, that’s all we want,” Foster added. 

If you fall victim to mail theft, or find a check you’ve mailed was cashed illegally, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service requests that you file a report with local police and the USPIS. Learn more about that process at this link here.

Have a consumer complaint? Call 1-844-NBC-RESP or click here to let us know, so we can help.

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