California postal worker run over as mail theft suspects try to get away

Three people were arrested after they were videotaped driving into a postal worker who was trying to thwart what police say was the theft of hundreds of pieces of mail from a Fullerton post office.

Police were called to the post office at 1350 E. Chapman Ave. around 4:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23, Fullerton Sgt. Ryan O’Neil said Saturday. A caller said someone had taken a crate of mail off a loading dock and fled in a black sedan. As the sedan left the parking lot, a female employee stood in front of the car, was pushed backward and fell into the street. She quickly got up on her own.

Cell phone footage captured the moment mail thieves ran over a mail lady after stealing mail from the Fullerton post office. The suspects walked into the facility targeting mail trays of checks before fleeing the location. #fullerton pic.twitter.com/0DLgspOqWg

— OC Hoods (@ocxhoods) January 25, 2024

About a mile south, at Orangethorpe and Raymond avenues near the 91 Freeway, an officer saw a car matching that description and pulled it over.

“Luckily, officers were in the right place at the right time,” police said in a Facebook post. “Officers conducted a traffic stop, and what do you know, a USPS mail bin was inside the vehicle. Needless to say, all occupants were delivered to jail.”

The three were arrested on suspicion of mail theft, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon — the car, O’Neil said.

Police are trying to determine whether the suspects were responsible for other mail thefts and robberies.

Federal officials say there has been a nationwide increase in such crimes.

Stealing mail provides crooks with numerous opportunities to profit. In addition to acquiring anything inside that in itself is valuable, thieves can alter checks and cash them, and they can sell or trade Social Security numbers and other personal information discovered. Mail is often targeted by drug addicts who lack cash.

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It’s also less risky than robbing a bank because few mail thieves face federal charges that can result in longer sentences.

These thefts are turning increasingly violent, according to the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

In a September 2023 report, officials wrote the Postal Service said in May that robberies — theft by force or fear — of letter carriers are increasing.

In a May 2023 news release cited by the Inspector General, postal authorities said 412 letter carriers were robbed during the 2022 fiscal year that ended in September 2022, and that 305 such crimes had been logged in the first half alone of fiscal year 2023 that ended in September 2023.

Also, postal authorities reported an increase in high-volume thefts from blue collection boxes and other containers from 38,500 in fiscal 2022 to 25,000 in the first half of fiscal 2023.

Thieves are particularly targeting arrow keys, which are skeleton keys that carriers use to open relay boxes, apartmentpanels, outdoor parcel lockers and neighborhood delivery and collection boxes. Those keys are used on more than 300,000 routes. The Inspector General report urged postmasters to improve the security of the keys.

In June 2023, Irvine police arrested an Anaheim man and said he possessed thousands of pieces of stolen mail, credit cards, passports and keys that could be used to open mailboxes.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced legislation in 2023 that would allow the Postal Service to assign its police to the field. Currently, they are restricted to Postal Service property, Durbin told CBS Ch. 2 in Chicago in November.

As a way to stay on top of when important letters and packages are going to arrive, consumers can sign up for Informed Delivery, a free service from the Postal Service that emails them images of incoming mail.

 

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