The Postal Service is cracking down on mail theft and robberies after a major uptick in recent years that has left mail carriers on edge. On Wednesday, the agency announced that they have made more than 600 arrests since May, the Associated Press reports. The National Association of Letter Carriers has held rallies around the country in recent months calling for better protection and harsher penalties for people who rob them. In late September, the Office of the Inspector General, the agency's watchdog, issued a report critical of Postal Service management for a lack of accountability in staffing and training, and upgrading mail carriers’ “universal keys,” which have been targets of criminals seeking to gain access to mailboxes.
“We will continue to turn up the pressure and put potential perpetrators on notice: If you’re attacking postal employees, if you steal the mail or commit other postal crimes, postal inspectors will bring you to justice,” Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale told reporters on Wednesday. The arrests, part of “Operation Safe Delivery” conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Unit, along with other internal units and outside agencies, include over 100 for robberies and more than 530 for mail theft. The efforts focused on organized mail crime in Chicago, San Francisco and several cities across Ohio. Mail theft can result in up to five years in prison, and assaulting a mail carrier can lead to a 10-year sentence. “Postal carriers have to keep their head on a swivel. They have to take precautions to be extra vigilant with their surroundings,” Rick Byrne, president of the Colorado State Association of Letter Carriers, said Wednesday.