Postal office changes catch attention of Visalia residents

Visalia’s Beech Ave. Post Office.(Kenny Goodman)

USPS announces statement on a plan to combat postal crime just as Visalia residents begin to voice their complaints about the removal of drive-up mailboxes in the area

VISALIA – Visalia residents are speaking out after noticing that drive-up mailboxes have been removed from several of the city’s post offices.

“I’m irritated,” stated Carolyn Goldsworthy, the Visalia resident who instigated the discussion via a post on Facebook. “Why have the post offices taken out the convenient drive-up mailboxes; they were so handy.”

Many of the comments assumed the removals were due to an increase of theft and vandalism, which was confirmed by Meiko Patton, a USPS media rep.

“The Postal Service is in the process of installing high-security mailboxes throughout the country,” she said. “We will continue to evaluate where these new boxes will be installed.”

As of press time, the Visalia Police Department has yet to respond to a request for comment about the city’s crime rates in regards to the matter at hand. Regardless, postal thefts have been trending nationwide. On Oct. 25, the United States Postal Service (USPS) made a statement regarding their current plans to combat this rise in theft and vandalism.

“We have effectively focused our efforts with USPS on hardening both physical and digital targets to combat threats to postal employees and secure the mail,” stated Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “We continue to turn up the pressure and put potential perpetrators on notice; if you attack Postal employees, steal the mail, or commit other postal crimes, Postal Inspectors will bring you to justice.”

Many of the comments shared on the Facebook post felt that the state itself wasn’t doing enough to combat crime, some going as far to say they allow it to happen. One such comment came from Lance Heiden, who stated that, in the state of California, “crime pays and there are no consequences; things are only made harder for law abiding citizens.”

Another user mentioned that their local P.O. box has been vandalized and stolen from on a weekly basis for nearly three years, and was only recently taken out.

While the USPA release didn’t give locations or a timeline for the implementation of the high-security mailboxes, they shared that they’ve already installed 10,000 of their “blue collection boxes” nationwide since implementing their “Project Safe Delivery” initiative in May. 

As part of this initiative, USPS will continue their ongoing replacement of antiquated arrow locks with 49,000 electronic locks, as well as increasing the monetary reward for information on mail related crimes of various degrees.

The new locks will prevent criminals using Arrow and Modified Arrow Lock (MAL) — which they obtain from targeting and robbing mail carriers — from stealing from secure mail receptacles. As of publication, they’ve already replaced over 6,500 of the old locks, which has decreased the criminal value for Arrow keys.

As for the increase of monetary rewards; $250,000 will be given to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of someone who has committed murder or manslaughter against a postal service employee, $15,000 for information on assault on postal employee or general robbery, and $100,000 for information on burglary of a post office, theft of mail or postal service property, or postage/meter tampering.

While it has yet to be seen how these changes will impact mail related crime and vandalism in Visalia, it seems to be a step in the right direction based on the comments shared by residents, such as Jesse Fankhauser, who felt that, while it “may be frustrating and inconvenient… we gotta do what we gotta do to protect the mail.”

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