Thieves with mail master keys target Edgewater building; postal carriers union demands change

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CHICAGO (TBEN) — A group of thieves brutally broke into an apartment building near Edgewater and looted mail and packages.

As TBEN 2’s Sabrina Franza reported Friday, mail carriers are now pushing for a major change of delivery.

Missing email is nothing new. It’s an issue we’ve been reporting on for years.

We’ve been asking about postmaster keys, or arrow keys – the keys used to open letterboxes for a long time. The problem with the yes is that they are often basically universal – and can open mailboxes over an entire area.

This latest case in Edgewater is no different from others we’ve seen. Thieves waltz into an apartment building – all with the arrow key – and the crime is simple if they take what they want.

Then they close the letterbox as if nothing happened.

“Generally speaking, they had taken things from me for less than $40 — and I’m not worried about that,” said a woman who lives in the Edgewater building that was targeted. “I’m just afraid they’ll run around with that key and get in anyone they want.”

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We hide the woman’s identity because she doesn’t want anyone to know where she lives.

“That’s like a federal crime,” the woman said. “That’s not like someone steals a few boxes. That’s great!”

The woman reached out to us after seeing our arrow key report. We’ve tracked similar crimes elsewhere, including the West Loop.

“Just feel like these people can come and go from any building they want, whenever they want,” the woman said. “It’s like getting the keys to the city — in a bad way.”

If stolen, the arrow keys can be used in different neighborhoods: on blue mailboxes where mail is delivered, and on cluster letters where residents of multi-unit buildings receive their mail.

“That can be very beneficial for someone who wants to do something negative with those keys,” said Mack Julion, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Julion has been a postman in Chicago herself for 25 years. He would like to see cluster boxes abolished. He noted that they are often outside in the middle of a block.

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“I think the answer lies in restoring the basic core of our service, which is basic door-to-door delivery,” said Julion.

But Julion said the USPS seems to be trying to turn away from door-to-door delivery.

“We’re seeing more and more neighborhoods — especially with new development — these cluster boxes more and more in the middle of the block,” Julion said. “I think the postal service is actually creating that problem itself, and I think they should do more to protect our members on the streets.”

The union is pushing for a city ordinance to do away with the large mailboxes, which increase the value of the arrow keys, and put, they say, a target on the backs of letter carriers. He said postmen are afraid for their safety.

“We robbed a mailman at gunpoint on the South Side,” Julion said.

The proposed ordinance has yet to reach the city council.

As for catching the criminals, that’s up to the postal inspectors – without the help of the postal police. Under the U.S. Code, the Postal Police can assist postal inspectors only when the crime occurs on the postal property.

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“It turns out that postal inspectors don’t make that many arrests,” said Frank Albergo, national president of the Postal Police Officers Organization. “It’s not because of a lack of trying. Postal inspectors from the mail theft teams, you know, they have limited resources. They can’t use postal police officers.’

Meanwhile, the four thieves who targeted the Edgewater building still have a mail arrow key somewhere.

“I don’t think they like them enough — and what worries us is that a lot of our members, reliable mail carriers, are belittled,” Julion said, “because there have been instances where it may have been something internal — but more often it has.” Then don’t, it’s not an internal job.”

We contacted the US Postal Inspectors for details of the various ongoing investigations into missing arrow keys. Every time we get the runaround.

The last we heard was that no one was available for an interview – and they say their investigation is ongoing. We keep asking.

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