CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The conversation on better-protecting mail carriers across the city and country has begun as attacks and robberies become more frequent, putting carriers on edge.
Less than one week after a Charlotte mail carrier was kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint in the Starmount area, Union representatives and US Postal leaders met with mail carriers at the Starmount post office to discuss what safety changes could be made.
“We’ve got to stop what’s happening,” said Sylvin Stevens, President of the Charlotte Chapter of the National Association of Mail Carriers.
Stevens was a mail carrier for over three decades and now acts as one of the voices and advocate for mail carriers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region.
It’s a role he is not only passionate about but does not take lightly after the tragedies he has seen while on the job, including his visit with Charlotte mail carrier Ed McDaniel, who was shot in the face while on the job in 2017.
“When they were hired, they never anticipate something like this occurring to a letter carrier,” Stevens said.
According to Steven and national organizations who track this information, attacks and robberies of mail carriers have become more frequent.
There have been 24 mail carrier attacks in the country since the beginning of January. One of those attacks involved a Starmount area mail carrier on January 17, 2023, who was kidnapped while walking his route in the Candlewood Drive area of town.
Authorities believe three men in their 20s took his cell phone and arrow key, which opens mailboxes at businesses and apartment complexes across the country.
Stevens has been in contact with the 66-year-old victim.
“I spoke with him yesterday,” Stevens explained. “I’m going to speak with him today to make sure that he doesn’t lose a step because he didn’t ask for this to happen to him.”
A month before this attack, another mail carrier from the Starmount area post office was shot at while on his route.
The job has changed drastically since Stevens hung up his keys, but it has become more physically demanding in the past five years.
There has been a national shortage of mail carriers at a time when mail carriers are asked to carry more packages than ever before.
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“A lot more packages, the staffing isn’t there, creates longer hours, keeps the carriers out there, and it creates situations like this to unfold,” Stevens said. “Unfortunately, a lot of these occurrences are happening in later hours of the evening, at dusk.”
Thieves look to steal packages and arrow keys.
When asked if there is an easy way to transition away from arrow keys, Stevens explained that they are too crucial to the job.
“In order for that to change, it would mean a whole restructuring of how we open and access those boxes,” Stevens said.
Conversations on safety have already included mail carriers’ ideas about better securing packages and arrow keys themselves. Those ideas have been kept private and will not be released to the public once decided on.
Other ideas have revolved around some mail carriers wanting to arm themselves. y
Steven said he and leaders have stressed that it is not an option.
“Some of them were even entertaining the idea of, ‘maybe, I need to carry something to protect myself,'” he explained. “Absolutely no, you cannot. The postal service and the NALC get together to figure out the best solutions and safeguards.”
One of the significant safety procedures that have been reinforced is the idea of being away from surroundings.
Carriers have been told to remove headphones while walking rounds and be aware of their surroundings.
Queen City News will continue to stay on this story and update on any major changes that are made.