TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Abigail Duddy said her South Tampa neighborhood had always been quiet, until lately.
“I just think it’s crazy,” Duddy said. “Because I never knew that this was happening so much.”
Duddy said porch pirates have been taking deliveries for some time. But recently, that turned into an outright robbery of her mail carrier.
“We’ve never had this bad of incidents in years,” Duddy said. “Like the past year it’s just gone crazy. And we’re thinking to ourselves, ‘Wow, this is just sad.'”
Duddy and her neighbors treat their mail carrier like family and part of the community.
“He’s just so loved, he’s always so nice,” Duddy recalled. “He has a big old smile on his face and basically he was robbed at gunpoint, which is terrifying.”
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service confirmed to 8 On Your Side there have been four robberies of mail carriers since Aug. 23 in Tampa, Temple Terrace and Brandon.
In a statement, the United Space Postal Inspection Service said, in part: “Ensuring the safety of Postal employees is the core mission of the Postal Inspection Service. We will continue to partner with federal, state, and local authorities to enforce the laws and bring criminals to justice. The Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service will also continue to adapt to evolving security threats and implement expanded measures to safeguard Postal employees and preserve the security of the mail that Postal Service customers expect and deserve. To that end, we are expanding the Project Safe Delivery crime prevention initiative to protect Postal employees and facilities, prevent mail and package theft, and enforce the law against individuals who perpetrate crimes against Postal employees or engage in mail and package theft.”
Two people were arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for one of the robberies.
“In the 25 years that I was a letter carrier here in Tampa, I never had to concern myself with this,” said Brian Obst.
Obst is the president of Branch 599 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, the union representing hundreds of mail carriers in the Tampa area.
“Of course, overall, none of us want to see this happening,” Obst said. “But this is becoming more and more of a reality in today’s society.”
Obst explained his union members are getting more and more worried — and he blames mailbox clusters, like those at apartment complexes.
“Now they make them put these cluster boxes up in areas on the ends of streets or away from the houses,” Obst explained. “So, we’re not being observed when we come up and deliver to a cluster box.”
He said those clusters are less safe than moving from house to house delivering mail, especially with all the doorbell cameras around.
“If I’m standing at a box and I’m delivering mail at a box, then somebody can sneak up on me where I don’t see them,” Obst said. “That’s a different situation that you’re looking at.”
Obst said the robbers want the mail carriers’ keys.
“People just will approach and see if they can’t find a way to get the key from you,” Obst said.
“You have some people that don’t want to get involved in an armed robbery,” Obst added. “So, they’re trying to see if they can’t try and talk their way into getting the keys.”
The USPIS said they’re offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robbers, who could face up to 25 years in federal prison if convicted.