The friendly, neighborhood mail carrier is a routine fixture in virtually every American neighborhood, but Tuesday was anything but routine for one postal employee on the city’s South Side.
The carrier was delivering mail in the 100 block of East Judson Avenue shortly before 2 p.m. and was walking past a set of vacant houses when two people, who appeared to be juveniles, came from inside or the rear of one of the empty buildings.
One of the juveniles put something that felt like a gun to the postman’s back while saying he did not believe the postal worker to be a “real mailman.” Both juveniles went through the victim’s pockets and mailbag, dumping its contents onto the ground.
The two thieves ran off with the keys to the U.S. Postal Service vehicle the carrier had been driving.
A resident living in the area later told the carrier and police he noticed two juveniles trying to enter the van, but he chased them away. The keys to the postal van were found in a nearby driveway and returned by another citizen.
David Van Allen, regional spokesman for the postal service, said the employee was shaken by the experience, but otherwise not injured. He said the teenage thieves did not manage to get away with any mail, postal property or personal property from the carrier.
Van Allen said postal carriers are instructed on safety measures, but those measures are not divulged to the public for the safety of the carriers.
“We ask if people do see something suspicious call the police,” he said. “This situation is still under investigation, and the [U.S.] postal inspector is involved.”
Van Allen said the culprits, if caught, likely will face state charges, but also could face additional felony charges because postal workers are federal employees.
Police Capt. Mark Milstead said he does not believe the postal worker was targeted. The robbery, he said, appears to have been a crime of opportunity.
“We haven’t seen a rash of postal employee robberies, so I don’t know that we have anyone targeting postal employees,” he said. “I don’t know that there is any incentive to rob a postal worker. They don’t carry any great amounts of cash. We really don’t know why they would do that other than a crime of opportunity.”
Milstead said the department has a description of the two thieves, but no specific suspects as of late Thursday. They are asking that anyone with information to contact the police department.