DENVER — On a Friday afternoon, while a letter carrier ate her lunch in her mail truck, two thieves attacked her while demanding her “arrow key,” according to federal court documents filed in Denver this month.
The attack happened near Florida Avenue and Peoria Street on Sept. 1 as the two suspects made off with bins of mail, a mail scanner, and a set of keys.
According to the federal criminal complaint filed against one of the suspects, “arrow keys” have become highly sought after items over the last few years with criminal organizations seeking to rob letter carriers who often wear them attached to their uniforms.
The keys can open community mailboxes, blue mail drop boxes, and access gates at some apartment complexes.
Under the law, the keys can only be possessed by postal employees and are now being counterfeited and duplicated through 3D printing, according to the criminal filing.
“...when a suspect utilizes an Arrow Key, they do so without leaving any trace of the crime. This permits the perpetual revictimization of a victim, often without their knowledge,” a postal inspector wrote in court records.
In May, the United States Postal Service (USPS) reported 305 robberies against letter carriers across the country since Oct. 1, 2022.
There were 412 robberies reported the prior fiscal year.
“We need to get the message sent, that these attacks will not be tolerated. And the suspects in these crimes need to be held accountable,” said Richard Byrne, president of the Colorado State Association of Letter Carriers.
Byrne said some of the robberies and attacks against letter carriers in other cities like Cincinnati were prosecuted as misdemeanor crimes. Byrne called for the consistent federal prosecution of the crimes to deter thieves.
In this month’s case in Aurora, postal investigators were able to quickly arrest one of the suspects identified as Dravell Emon Ross because the stolen mail scanner was traceable through its GPS tracking ability.
“Law enforcement being on top of this in the beginning and acting as swiftly as they did, making the arrest. That's what we need,” Byrne said.
Ross is in custody and faces three counts, which include mail theft and assaulting the postal worker.
According to USPS, 49,000 arrow locks across the country are being upgraded to electronic locks in an effort to mitigate robberies.
"Every postal employee deserves to work in safety and to be free from targeting by criminals seeking to access the public's mail. In an increasingly challenging environment, the USPS and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) are highly focused on protecting postal employees and property and ensuring the secure delivery of the nation's mail and packages," James Boxrud, a spokesperson for the USPS in Colorado wrote to 9NEWS.
"Recognizing these ongoing safety threats, we have been - and will continue to- implement an engaged, robust nationwide initiative to harden blue collection boxes, enhance collection box key and lock technology and institute dual authentication for change of address protocols," Boxrud added.
What can you do to protect your mail?
When the USPS reported robberies against letter carriers in May, it encouraged customers to “Deposit outgoing mail through a number of secure manners including inside your local Post Office or at your place of business or by handing it to a letter carrier.”
USPS also recommends not letting mail sit in your mailbox for too long.
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