Federal officials have launched an investigation into mail theft in Queens, given a spike across the borough in recent years.
The investigation, which is being led by the United States Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, was announced this week, prompted by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s efforts to combat the problem that has increased in recent years.
In October, she penned a letter to the inspector general requesting the probe, noting that the issue needed to be addressed. She had sent two letters in 2022 to the USPS district manager in Melville to request a course of action.
“The increase in mail theft continues to plague many local residents here in Queens which is why I’m glad that this audit is now underway,” Meng said in a statement. “Hopefully, it will provide answers on how the Postal Service has handled the problem in our borough and whether more can be done to address it. I thank the Office of Inspector General for agreeing to my request for this probe and look forward to its findings.”
In her letter, Meng listed sixteen post offices across her district, from locations in Bayside to Jackson Heights, that should be investigated. She added that her office has received hundreds of mail theft complaints that were passed along to the USPS in the past three years.
“Mail theft can lead to identity and financial theft, compromising personal data and disrupting essential deliveries,” said Warren Schreiber, President of the Queens Civic Congress, which represents over 100 civic and community organizations in Queens. “This crime damages trust in postal services and has long-lasting impacts on victims.”
A suspected contributing factor to the theft is green relay boxes, which are used by mail carriers to lighten their load. Workers in high density areas will store mail in the boxes to be picked up at a later time.
But most boxes can be opened with a universal arrow key, which is considered an outdated security flaw. Some letter carriers have been targeted for their keys on the job.
The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), independent from the postal service to ensure accountability in the system, partnered with Meng in August to provide local residents with tips to prevent mail theft. They advised residents to avoid dropping off their mail in postal boxes, unless it is close to the pickup time indicated, and to instead drop off their outgoing mail directly to their local post office.
“We thank Representative Meng for her steadfast support of the men and women of the U.S. Postal Service, and her constituents,” said George Mangold, president of the New York State Association of Letter Carriers. “We hope the report brings to light the severity of this problem, plus the assaults on our carriers, along with the mail theft.”
Results from the investigation are expected to be released in March.