CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two postal workers were robbed in west suburban Forest Park within a matter of days, and police there have arrested someone they believe is connected to at least one of those robberies.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) has introduced legislation that would put Postal Police back on the street to protect workers.
As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Wednesday, we have tracked crimes across the area – and the figures on assaultsare . Such attacks are up 231 percent in the past three years.
The letter carriers' union said Durbin's proposed legislation is a long time coming.
Durbin and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced the Postal Police Reform Act – which would allow the Postal Service to assign Postal Police officers to protect workers against robberies.
Currently, Postal Police are only assigned to duties on postal property. In a news release, Durbin noted that the U.S. Postal Service restricted Postal Police officers to such duties under the leadership of Postmaster Louis DeJoy in 2020.
Citing statistics from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Durbin's office said armed robberies of mail carriers jumped from 36 incidents nationwide in 2018 to 154 in 2021.
"I'm happy he is taking the approach to do something; to get something done for us," said Elise Foster, president of Branch 11 of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Workers in Chicago want to see the Postal Police Reform Act made into law, according to Foster.
Foster represents more than 5,000 Chicago-area workers as head of the union local.
"And that gives us some kind of assurance that someone at least cares," she said.
"They want to see Postal Police - someone out there patrolling," said Foster. "The workers here in Chicago are fed up. They're scared. And they want to see more."
She expressed confidence in Durbin.
"We've been in communication with Senator Dick Durbin and his staff, and he has been a champion in advocating for letter carriers," she said.
Her call for the passage of the Postal Police Reform Act comes after two postal workers were robbed near on the same street in Forest Park within a matter of days.
The robberies happened in a neighborhood where gingerbread men and candy canes decorate the streetscapes. But postal workers are feeling anything but holiday jolly about what happened there.
The first robbery happened on Saturday, in the 900 block of Beloit Avenue in Forest Park. Police said the man approached the postal worker outside of his truck and said, "I don't want to hurt you," while robbing him of his- allowing access to multiple mailboxes.
There was another robbery Tuesday, in the 1000 block of Beloit Avenue just steps away from the Saturday incident. This time, police say a worker was delivering mail when a man approached and said, "Gimme them keys," while showing the worker a black handgun. This postal worker was also robbed of master keys, authorities said.
Durbin's office noted that because they can open so many mailboxes – thus facilitating the theft of items such as Social Security checks and prescription drugs - master keys can tech thousands of dollars on the clandestine market.
Forest Park Police and U.S. Postal Investigators arrested a man Wednesday who they believe is behind at least one of those robberies. Police said he dropped a loaded gun during an attempt to get away from officers during the arrest.
Foster said she checked in with the postmaster in Chicago to see how the workers who were robbed in Forest Park are doing.
"Her carriers are OK physically, but mentally, they are having issues dealing with it," she said.
Foster said these robberies in Forest Park were yet an example of what workers in Chicago are dealing with far too often - and it's time for change.
"Leave us alone," Foster said.
Co-sponsoring the Postal Police Reform Act with Durbin and Collins are U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-Nevada), and Angus King (I-Maine).
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service had no comment on the proposed legislation.
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