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Postal Carriers Union Pres. Alarmed By Surge In Attacks On Letter Carriers

NORTH MIAMI (CBS4) - Another letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service has been attacked and his union President said he is alarmed by a substantial hike in such attacks in South Florida.

A letter carrier interviewed by CBS4's Peter D'Oench said he and his fellow carriers are being more careful than ever after the union said there have been a half-dozen attacks in the North Miami area in the past two years.
Several of those assaults have occurred along Northeast 6th Avenue.

"I feel disgusted," said the letter carrier. He told D'Oench that he did not want to show his face but he did want to speak out after the latest attack.

"I feel you don't know," he said. "It could happen to me and I just pray to God that I can go home, go home to my wife. It's juveniles. Mainly juveniles. And they've got impunity. And I feel there's a lack of police around this area. It has a lot of crime."

"This is a sign of the times," he said. "These crimes happen. You need more protection."

"But there are tougher penalties if you attack a postal carrier," he said. "Some people don't realize that if you attack a postal carrier, you will go away for a long time if they catch you."

According to a police report obtained by CBS4, 61-year-old letter carrier Comilla Towns Jr. was putting mail in the mail boxes at an apartment building at 13280 N.E. 6th Ave. at 5:45 p.m. last Friday when he was approached by two juveniles who were between 14 and 16-years-old.

The taller juvenile hit Towns on the right side of his head, causing a one-inch cut.

"There was no dialogue during the incident," the report said. The suspects did not take anything. They fled on foot.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded and told Towns he would need stitches. Towns told police he could not identify the suspects and had not seem them on his normal route.

According to his union, Towns was seeing a doctor on Monday and was going to be okay. Towns did not want to comment about the case or what happened to him, but his union president is concerned.

"It's a sickening feeling considering what is going on in our country today where there seems to be a lack of respect for other human beings and letter carriers out there who are just trying to do their jobs," said Michael Gill, the President of Letter Carriers Branch 1071 of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Gill told D'Oench that his union represents 3,300 letter carriers from South Florida to Lake Worth.

"The union and postal service management are pretty much on the same page," Gill said. "We are trying to make postal carriers to be aware of their surroundings. If something doesn't feel right, if you can get away from the area immediately. Make the appropriate call back to your station or to management or to law enforcement agencies," Gill said.

"We tell our carriers, be aware, be safe. Get out of the situation that doesn't look good or feel right," said Gill.

It is a particular concern this time of year.

"With the increased use of e commerce and people shipping through the mails, there's always a concern across the holidays," he said.

The letter carrier who spoke with D'Oench said he is haunted by the images of previous attacks on letter carriers.

On Dec. 6, 2010, veteran carrier Bruce Parton was shot and killed while on his mail route at 486 N.W. 165th St. Road. His master keys for mail boxes were taken.

On October 26th, 2011, two teenagers and 18-year-old Steven Daniels in connection with a strink of postal worker robberies that were unrelated. Three female carriers were robbed, sometimes at gunpoint, during that month.

Each time, the suspects took their master mail keys used to open mailboxes.

On Nov. 17,2011, a carrier delivering mail to the people who live on NW `12th street in Hialeah was attacked by a man who smashed her head with a pistol. Two men took a necklace and all of her keys.

On Feb. 21st of this year, U.S. Postal Service inspectors said a postal worker who parked her vehicle in the 15800 block of NW 2nd Avenue was attacked by two young men as she was leaving her vehicle. They also took the master key.

Authorities said a number of postal carriers have been attacked by thieves who want their mailbox master keys, often to get access to mail so they can get data for identity theft.

In the past, thieves wanted access to mail so they could steal checks. But as fewer people use checks, identity theft has become the main reason mail is stolen.

Following a series of robberies in October of 2011, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Henry Gutierrez said the postal service had taken steps to eliminate master mail keys as a target.

"We are changing our system," Gutierrez said on Oct. 26, 2011. "We are in the process of changing the system and the way we lock these boxes throughout the country and South Florida is in the process of doing that right now."

Putting the thefts in perspective, Gutierrez said with more than a quarter million mail carriers on the road nationwide, the theft of master mail keys is extremely rare.

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