SANTA MONICA, Calif. — When their mail failed to arrive about a week ago, residents of a neat block near the beach on the west side of Los Angeles County were perplexed.
At first, Charlotte Jay said, “I thought I didn’t have one.” A day or so passed. She expected a certified letter. Then a neighbor tipped her off: Their mail was suspended.
Ms. Jay added, “I was like, ‘What?'”
The outage was explained in a letter from the United States Postal Service, but some residents said they hadn’t received or seen it initially.
According to the note, the delivery service had been halted to “all addresses in 1300 block of 14th Street” after multiple “attacks and threats of violence” against postal workers by a person nearby.
“The safety of our employees and the mail they deliver to you is our top concern,” the letter said, adding that residents could collect their mail from a nearby post office until service resumed.
“The whole block? It’s an extreme measure,” Mrs. Jay, a stock trader, said Tuesday afternoon outside her apartment, where she had just returned from a walk with her brown terrier mix.
She added: “I was shocked, and I was angry.”
Service to the area resumed Tuesday, but the delivery has departed lingering questions about residents’ expectation of mail delivery, one of the few remaining constants in a world turned upside down (and driven to fury) by the coronavirus pandemic. It has also brought the right to safety to the attention of postal workers who, like other essential workers, have struggled for the past two years to hand-deliver the country’s letters, bills and paychecks day in and out.
Police confirmed that on January 19, a man attacked a postman in Santa Monica with a broomstick.
“The victim sustained a minor injury to his arm and did not require medical attention,” the Santa Monica Police Department said in a statement.
Although the Postal Service has cited episodes involving “three separate mailboxes” in Santa Monica, police said they had received information about just one attack.
A suspect was arrested and charged in the January 19 attack, police said, but those charges were later dropped after the victim decided not to proceed. The same suspect was arrested on April 6 on suspicion of ‘misdemeanor vandalism and possession of drug paraphernalia’. said the police.
Police said authorities were trying to locate other postal workers who may have been victimized as part of their ongoing investigation.
“It’s unfortunate that these three carriers went through this,” Natashi Garvins, a spokeswoman for the Post, said by phone on Wednesday. The service, she added, can and does occasionally deliver mail, though she said it couldn’t provide numbers or say if any had been done before in response to attacks on mail carriers.
“It can happen for a variety of reasons,” said Ms Garvins, adding that the Postal Service would always try to provide people with alternative means of collecting their mail.
In the case of Santa Monica, she added, the service had decided to cancel the mail to the entire block because the person responsible for the three episodes “could be anywhere” in the area.
Harassment of postal workers does not seem to be an isolated incident, however.
In New York City, police opened an investigation last June after a postman on his route in Brooklyn was attacked by two people. In Providence, RI, in January a federal grand jury indicted a man on charges that he assaulted and robbed a postal worker in September. In Arizona, a man attacked a postal worker in May after she asked him for his identification.
Marjon Barrigan Husted, a spokeswoman for the US Postal Inspector, said Wednesday that she was not aware of a recent increase in such episodes in Los Angeles.
The American Postal Workers’ Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers did not immediately return requests for comment.
Some residents said they were familiar with the person they believed attacked the postmen. They described him as transient and erratic. One man, a clerk who declined to be named to protect his safety, said he saw the man wielding a golf club at a postman. Another said that after the January 19 attack, his regular mailman had suddenly disappeared.
Cori Newman, 49, a manager at a local restaurant, said the person in question approached her several times at work, but also outside office hours in the neighboring parking lot.
“I lived in Santa Monica a long time ago as a kid and never felt like it was ever dangerous,” said Mrs Newman. Now, she said, she has a baseball bat and pepper spray behind the bar. “If I have to use it,” she said, “I must use it.”
Others, however, said that aside from the recent episodes, the neighborhood was largely peaceful. “I just think it’s sad,” said Jim Price, 55.
“This is Santa Monica,” he added. “It’s safe; it’s a nice city by the sea.”