ORLANDO, Fla. — “After the first attack, we would have patrolled the area. We would have basically stopped it. It wouldn’t have escalated to that point,” Postal Police Officers Association President Frank Albergo said about a recent string of attacks against postal workers in Orlando.
The union representing law enforcement officers responsible for protecting post offices argues a rash of recent attacks in Central Florida across the country could be stopped, if they were allowed to patrol.
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Investigative Reporter Karla Ray first reported earlier this month about the attacks on postal carriers for their master keys. Postal police officers (PPOs) say they used to be able to patrol to stop thefts like this from happening, but in 2020, a judge sided with the United States Postal Service after a memo went out relegating those officers to USPS property.
As investigators continue to try to piece together the organization responsible for a string of attacks and arrow key thefts in Orlando, the union is speaking out, saying incidents like this could have been avoided.
Read: Postal carrier attacks on the rise nationwide: Here’s what most robbers are after
In a federal criminal complaint, investigators say photos show two men stealing mail outside a business complex in Orlando in September, investigators noting “the individual shown leaving with the trash bag holding the stolen mail appears to share a close resemblance” with Tarick Jean Charles.
Tarick Jean Charles was just arrested for conspiracy to steal postal service keys and commit mail theft, the first in what’s expected to be a string of arrests in an investigation dating back to March. That’s when two robbers, who have not yet been identified or arrested, were caught on surveillance video moments before brutally attacking a mail carrier in Orlando for his arrow key.
Read: Reward offered after second U.S. Postal Service letter carrier robbed in Central Florida
“Nowadays, it’s like they have a target on their back. I mean, it’s just a very easy crime. The inspection service is doing very little to stop it,” Albergo said.
Albergo said data obtained by 9 Investigates, showing at least 2600 mail carrier attacks nationwide from January 2019 through June of this year, isn’t a surprise. That’s because a judge determined in 2020 that the position of the USPS that PPOs should only perform law enforcement duties inside post offices and USPS property was correct. That means no patrols to protect mail carriers, or their universal arrow keys, that provide access to hundreds of pieces of mail in one place.
“They rob the carriers, they get the keys and now they get tons of mail. And then they really start, you know, going to town on washing checks,” Albergo said.
Read: Lawmakers examine increase in mail theft, mail carrier robberies
The federal court record connects the March attack and arrow key theft to mail thefts at at least four apartment complexes, and altered checks being used in the months that have followed.
Investigators also point out a possible connection to two carrier robberies in two days last month in the same neighborhood in Pine Hills.
Albergo said in addition to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducting the investigation into those incidents, resources should be focused on preventing more attacks and thefts.
“It’s an easy crime to prevent. It’s called postal police officers,” Albergo said. “I mean, can we stop it completely? No. Can we stop it from escalating in a given area? 100%, yes.”
The postal service has known about this problem for at least three years. An audit initiated in 2019 found the “agency’s management controls over arrow keys were ineffective, the number of arrow keys in circulation is unknown,” and that new technology including keyless locking and key tracking could improve management controls over lost keys, and protect workers.
Read: $50K reward offered for tips identifying 2 men accused of assaulting Orlando letter carrier
The USPIS told WFTV today in a statement: “Postal Police Officers (“PPOs”) do not investigate mail theft. PPOs are the uniformed security force of the Postal Service and play an important role in the protection of employees, assets and mail on Postal Service property. PPOs are armed, wear uniforms, and use clearly marked vehicles to deter crime and provide physical security at Postal Service facilities. By law, the jurisdiction of PPOs is limited to Postal Service real property, and as such, the primary role of PPOs is to provide physical security for Postal Service property at their assigned work locations.
In addition, The investigation of mail theft is the jurisdiction of U.S. Postal Inspectors. Postal Inspectors are federal law enforcement agents who conduct investigations of postal-related crime, such as mail fraud and theft. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service takes seriously its role to safeguard America and will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators that use the U.S. Mail system to further their illegal activity. Every day, the U.S. Postal Service safely and efficiently delivers millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and merchandise. Unfortunately, such items are also attractive to thieves and that is why Postal Inspectors across the country are at work to protect your mail.”
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