The United State Postal Investigative Service (USPIS) has launched an investigation after a group or individual forcefully opened and stole mail from collection boxes throughout the Richmond metro area between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning, according to the U.S. Postal Service.
“This morning we received several calls from some of our local post offices as they opened up that they believed their blue collection boxes, out front of their post offices, had been tampered with or vandalized,” Michael J. Romano, U.S. Postal inspector team leader, said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “It would appear that the boxes themselves were pried open and entry was gained.”
Investigators from the USPIS, the federal law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service, do not yet know if election ballots were inside the targeted mailboxes, according to Romano.
“Obviously, [election ballots] are a concern,” Romano said. “I won’t say that it’s not, but, ultimately, we would target this investigation the same way we would for any mail theft investigation.”
In total, there are six post office locations where boxes were tampered with: one in Richmond city, two in Chesterfield County and three in Henrico County.
Those locations are as followed:
- Westhampton Post Office, 805 Glenburnie Rd, Richmond, VA 23226
- Glen Allen Post Office, 4990 Sadler Pl, Glen Allen, VA 23060
- Midlothian Main Post Office, 1201 Sycamore Square Dr, Midlothian, VA 23113
- Lakeside post office, 2100 E Parham Rd, Henrico, VA 23228
- Regency Branch Post Office, 2000 Starling Dr, Henrico, VA 23229
- Pocoshock Post Office, 501 Lady Blair Ln, North Chesterfield, VA 23236
When asked if this incident could have been a coordinated effort by a group or multiple individuals, Romano said it was too early in the investigation to make a determination.
Henrico Police officers went to the Glen Allen post office Monday morning to record that the incident took place, but are not handling the actual investigation, Lieutenant Matthew Pecka, Henrico Police public information officer, told The Star.
In a press release on Monday, Del. Rodney Willett (D-Henrico County) commented on the situation.
“I am extremely concerned and dismayed at the apparent thievery from mailboxes in the region,” Willett said. “Particularly, during this pandemic, people depend on the postal service for goods and services, for legal documents, to receive and pay bills and for communications from distanced loved ones.
“Moreover, with an election a month away and people legitimately fearing infection, many folks are counting on mail-in ballots. Their right to participate in a critical election should not be abrogated by egregious and illegal acts.”
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson also commented on the mail theft.
“Although authorities don’t know what the specific target of these mailboxes break ins were – were it election ballots, were it negotiable checks or cash, or other things of value that transit the mail service – it takes on a special significance this time of the year because everyone knows that the postal service is a wash and balance [for the election],” Anderson said in an interview with The Star.
Anderson also said the incident raises concerns over the safety of the ballot drop boxes approved by the General Assembly during the 2020 special session.
The last pick ups for the broken-into mailboxes took place at varying times on Saturday, so the theft must have happened between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning at 7 a.m. when USPIS was alerted, according to Romano.
“If anybody mailed anything from those boxes specifically outfront of those post offices during the time period in question, we’re asking them to contact us to report it,” Romano said.
People can call the USPIS hotline at 877-876-2455 or go online to uspis.gov to report that their mail may have been lost, stolen or tampered with.
Romano reiterated that theft from blue mailboxes is extremely low and it is not a common occurrence. Romano also recommended that going into the post offices and dropping mail at the counter or through the deposit box attached to the buildings as well as directly handing mail to a carrier, if possible, can be more secure than collection boxes.
As of Sunday, 282,251 ballots have already been cast through the mail in Virginia, according to the Virginia Public Access project early voting dashboard.
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