Letter carriers protest growing number of attacks aimed at them
National Association of Letter Carriers President Brian Renfroe speaks to the media Nov. 20, 2023 in Phoenix. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
As the holiday rush to send packages approaches, letter carriers in Arizona and across the nation are trying to bring awareness to the growing number of attacks against them.
“Enough is enough” was the rallying cry of members of the National Association of Letter Carriers who gathered at the Wesley Bolin plaza Thursday afternoon in Phoenix to try to bring attention to the increasing number of assaults and targeted robberies aimed at them.
“Nothing in that truck is more important than your life,” local association branch Vice President Eric Gregorovic said, adding that there have been more than 10 attacks on letter carriers in Arizona in the past year.
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Gregorovic, along with others, urged the importance for citizens to call 911 if they see an attack taking place against a letter carrier, but those present also demanded something else: For federal prosecutors to pay more attention to the issue.
The association’s national president Brian Renfroe called the increase in attacks “appalling” and “out of control.”
Since 2020, there have been over 2,000 attacks against letter carriers. Most of those involved a firearm, and it is becoming a growing problem in Arizona, according to Renfroe.
Renfroe said of the over 2,000 attacks against letter carriers since 2020, only a small fraction, approximately 14%, have led to prosecutions.
“There is an 86% chance they can get away with it,” Renfroe said, stating that the lack of prosecutions sends a green light to criminals to engage in this behavior. “We should not have to be here and do this.”
That is why Renfroe and other letter carriers are calling on the Department of Justice and the United States Postal Inspection Service to prosecute those who commit these crimes in federal court. Since the pandemic, the number of crimes against letter carriers has increased as have forms of fraud that are often tied to theft of mail.
Renfroe said that in other parts of the country where the issue has gotten more attention, more prosecutions are made and those prosecutions could have a major impact on morale.
Local carrier association branch president Cynthia Staley said that the emotional toll that workers face after being a victim of armed robbery or assault often makes it hard for workers to want to return to the job.
“That kind of lives with you everyday,” Staley said. “That doesn’t go away.”
Now Staley and others are doing something they never had to do in the past, be on the alert.
“Years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about being vigilant,” Staley said, adding that in many cases of assaults both locally and nationally, criminals aim to get the keys that would lead them to multiple mailboxes.
Letter carriers and the Postal Service have also been facing a different kind of attack
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump made the Postal Service a subject of attack when maligning vote by mail. Trump made multiple allegations that lacked evidence about the vote by mail system, even claiming that West Virginia mailmen were selling ballots. He also threatened Postal Service funding.
Renfroe said that there were isolated incidents in 2020 and 2022 in which politically-motivated attacks caused issues for letter carriers, adding that the growing number of armed robberies is the main issue.
Renfroe also reiterated that the over 280,000 members of the NALC are proud that they play “a very large part in our democracy.”
The Postal Service has begun to take action, rolling out its “Safe Delivery” project earlier this year, which aims to decrease the number of robberies and other crimes against letter carriers. But Renfroe wants more, and said that federal legislation is currently in the works and that it should expect bi-partisan support.
“This violence against our members must stop,” he said.
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