Official: Puget Sound-area mail carriers are being targeted with violence

Aug 18, 2023, 5:51 PM

Seattle mail carriers...

Seattle mail carriers are being threatened with violence. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

(Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio)

After multiple U.S. Postal Service (USPS) master keys were stolen, an official representing Puget Sound-area mail carriers said to KIRO Newsradio they are being targeted, even with violence.

On Saturday, a mail carrier was held at gunpoint in the Wedgwood neighborhood.

“Letter carriers are absolutely being targeted,” Kevin Gottlieb, President of the Seattle division of the National Association of Letter Carriers, told KIRO Newsradio Friday. “I’ve seen an increase of vandalism to mailboxes and now they’re stealing our trucks, holding carriers at gunpoint, etc. I’ve been a letter carrier for 35 years, 31 of them delivering, and I’ve never heard about the sort of crime against letter carriers and the Postal Service as I have over the last year.”

Mail crime news: Wedgwood master mail key stolen, theft spreads to another Seattle neighborhood

Gottlieb said he has seen mailboxes blown up, ripped from their stands, and dragged away.

“And there’s been an increase over the last five or six years where you go out to deliver to a stand-up mailbox and the whole mailbox is gone. Or you get to a street that has all deliveries in one vehicle and you get to the last box and somebody had gone down the street and they took out all the mail.”

Thieves want access to mailboxes

Gottlieb said thieves are trying to get access to mailboxes, collection boxes, and apartment complexes.

“I know the Postal Service is trying to come up with an alternative way to enter mailboxes and collection boxes,” he said. “And from what I understand it’s somewhat in the process, but it may take a little bit before it gets out here on the west coast.”

Gottlieb explained that mail carriers are being told to become more vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

“But that doesn’t always work, as you can see about the carrier in the Wedgwood neighborhood,” he explained. “He was just walking up to a mailbox and went to an apartment complex to deliver the mail. And as he said, somebody stuck a gun in his gut.”

Directions: Give up whatever it takes to be safe

Letter carriers are being told to give up whatever is necessary to stay safe, even if it is the truck itself.

“The Postal Service wants us to be safe and go home at the end of the day and if it means giving them the truck or giving them other items, just give it to him,” Gottlieb said.

He said just a few months ago, North Seattle trucks in North Seattle were stolen.

“We’ve also had trucks broken into two down in Federal Way and an Auburn carrier went into a 7/11 to get a soda and the truck was vandalized,” Gottlieb explained. “In Federal Way, the carrier got water and when they came out, his side window was broken into and trays and mail were taken out.”

Related development: Thousands of Marysville mailboxes jeopardized due to stolen postal service master key

“I don’t know how you protect the carriers out on the street,” he added. “They just need to be more vigilant and aware. But even if that happens, you know, somebody walks up to you with a gun. I don’t think there’s anything they can do.”

Gottlieb would like to see customers watch out for their letter carrier when they see the postal truck parked on the corner.

“It would be nice if they just kept their eyes on their carrier, and maybe showed a presence when they’re out,” he said. “When when the carrier’s around, maybe that would help deter some of these would-be thieves.”

He would also like to see more law enforcement in the neighborhood. “There’s no postal police out here.”

Keys are often not useful over a wide area

Gottlieb explained the keys themselves are often not a big part of the problem. The keys are broken down into sections and if a carrier has a key taken it has less of an impact than you might believe.

“But if the keys are for a large section, like what happened in Columbia City, the post office was trying to protect the people’s mail,” he said. “And I’m not sure if they ever replaced the keys there. But it’s a very large area still and it costs a lot of money.”

Gottlieb said he hasn’t seen many postal carriers leave the force because of threats.

“It’s our job. So what we do is we go out and we perform a service for our customers that serve that’s our main purpose is delivering the mail to our customers.”

Bill Kaczaraba is an editor for MyNorthwest.com and Sam Campbell is a reporter for KIRO Newsradio. You can follow Sam on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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Official: Puget Sound-area mail carriers are being targeted with violence