At Subcommittee Hearing, Witnesses Call on Congress to Address Rampant Mail Theft in Philadelphia, Nationwide
Washington, D.C. (September 7, 2022)—Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, held a field hearing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to examine drops in the U.S. Postal Service’s mail delivery performance, recent increases in postal mail theft and crime, and whether the Postal Service is prepared to effectively receive and deliver mail-in ballots nationally during the upcoming election cycle.
“In April, Congress enacted the Postal Service Reform Act, which I co-sponsored. This once-in-a-generation legislation puts the Postal Service on the path of financial solvency—unshackling it from unfair statutory burdens that kept it mired in unnecessary payments and debt. The bill plants the Postal Service on firm financial ground, readying it for the future,” said Chairman Connolly in his opening statement. “Congress must make sure Postal Service leadership is prepared and poised to take the reins we hand them. Recent reports and constituent voices leave us concerned that they are not.”
The Subcommittee heard testimony from Ivan Butts, President of the National Association of Postal Supervisors; Gary Vaccarella, DE-PA2 District Manager for the U.S. Postal Service; Melinda Perez, Assistant Inspector General for Audit in the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General; and Frank Albergo, National President of the Postal Police Officers Association.
Members and witnesses discussed how operational changes made by Postal Service senior staff, including the Postmaster General, disrupted delivery services during a pandemic and a consequential presidential election.
- In his opening statement, Rep. Boyle said: “In 2019, obviously pre-pandemic, we had 60 Postal Service-related caseworks and complaints. In 2020, that spiked to 199. In 2021, fortunately, it dropped to 147. This year, however, in 2022 with still four months to go, we are on pace to eclipse that 199 that we received in 2020. So, think about where we were in the pandemic in 2020 and 2021versus today. And yet this year is by far the worst for my constituents. So, I think the conclusion is pretty unavoidable. While COVID-19 has presented extraordinary challenges over the past two and a half years, it seems quite clear that steps taken by Postmaster DeJoy and senior management at the Postal Service have clearly been inadequate to get service levels where they should be.”
- In his opening statement, Mr. Butts said: “Postal performance is immensely important to NAPS members. As such, NAPS is concerned about the effects of the USPS’s recently announced plan to consolidate and realign mail processing operations throughout the country. Members of Congress from Pennsylvania should know this proposal would impact mail processing and delivery in Southeast Pennsylvania through the consolidation of 12 USPS associate offices into the tri-county facility. We believe, consistent with the law, the Postal Service should be transparent with regards to the reasons it’s deciding to initiate this plan. What are the specific goals that are planned? What are the cost savings? How much will be saved? And how will success be measured?”
- In response to a question from Rep. Dean on how USPS can address workforce shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, Mr. Vaccarella said: “We are very aggressively addressing our hiring practices, not only in this district but nationwide. I can tell you within this district we have district-led job fairs. At least 20 per month. And then additional Postmasters, such as the Postmaster of Philadelphia, hold additional job fairs. So, we are well above 20 job fairs each month. ... We have hired more than 2,000 carriers—both city carriers and rural carriers—over the past 12 months in this district.”
Members asked witnesses about the recent uptick in mail theft nationwide and in Philadelphia and examined what Congress can do to ensure the Postal Police force can fight postal crimes regardless of where they are perpetrated.
- In his opening statement, Mr. Albergo explained: “The Postal Service, perhaps America’s most beloved federal institution, is in peril. Postal workers are being attacked and mail is being stolen at unprecedented levels. Make no mistake; the Postal Inspection Service is doing very little about it. In fact, the Inspection Service has begun the process of defunding its uniformed Postal Police Force during an unparalleled postal crime wave. Americans deserve to have their mail protected and postal employees deserve to feel safe while they’re at work. The Postal Service must effectively utilize all of its resources to curb the plague of mail theft and stop the attacks on postal workers. It is obvious to everyone—except the Postal Service—that Postal Police Officers are the most cost effective resource to accomplish this critical goal.”
- In her opening statement, Ms. Perez said: “One cause of recent increases in mail theft is the challenge around arrow key accountability, as we reported in August of 2020. Arrow keys are used by postal workers to open blue collection boxes and neighborhood delivery box units. Subjects are stealing arrow keys or approaching postal employees and offering to pay them to sell or loan them their keys. To address this issue, our Office of Investigations has initiated Operation Secure Arrow, a multifaceted effort to identify and investigate employees involved in the theft and mishandling of arrow keys.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Albergo said: “The Postal Police Force has been decimated. We need more PPOs. I mean, that’s right off the bat. Secondly, we need our jurisdiction restored. Third, the inspection service needs to understand that policing—a law enforcement officer, a uniformed police officer—deters crime. They seem to be more interested in investigating crime than deterring it.
- In response to a question from Rep. Dean, Mr. Albergo said: “What I do know is that Mr. DeJoy hasn’t done anything to rectify the problem. He hasn’t spoken to the Inspection Service, telling them, ‘Hey, you have police officers. Let’s use them. We have a mail theft epidemic.’ That hasn’t happened as far as I know.”
Witnesses described how mail delivery services plummeted in 2020 and 2021 and the impact it had on customers, as well as the reasons behind improving on-time delivery rates.
- In his opening statement, Chairman Connolly said: “A recent Inspector General report found that the Postal Service has not been meeting the needs of its customers. In fact, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General found that the Postal Service only met service performance targets for three of 33 products in Fiscal Year 2020. Good, reliable service is vital to the Postal Service’s long-term survival. Late or lost deliveries drive mailers away from using the Postal Service.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Boyle, Ms. Perez said: “We’d found that in the Philadelphia area, mail delivery was below the national average. As I also mentioned in my opening statement, the averages have improved here in the Philadelphia area, but we are continuing to conduct work and oversight in this area to ensure they stay that way. And we will be actually conducting work in the Philadelphia and Delaware regions in the beginning of FY 2023.”