A postal investigator from the U.S. Postal Service is investigating an incident of undelivered mail found dumped in a garbage can in the 1000 block of South Harvey Avenue in Oak Park. The mail was reportedly dumped by a Postal Service mail carrier, according to eyewitness accounts. If found guilty of desertion of mails, the mail carrier faces a year in prison and a hefty financial fine.

Oak Park resident Ernest Compere told police he was sitting in his vehicle near his house when he saw a postal carrier dumping about two boxes’ worth of undelivered mail into his neighbor Jim Kelly’s garbage can at 7:41 p.m., May 9. Kelly and his husband arrived home later that evening to find Compere, who declined Wednesday Journal’s interview request, standing near the large bin.

“He had called the police and he was waiting for the squad car to come, so we just  stayed with him,” Kelly told Wednesday Journal. “And just a few minutes later, the patrol car did come up.”

When police arrived, the neighbors were instructed not to touch the mail. The police officer stayed with the garbage receptacle until Oak Park Postmaster Kenya Thomas arrived about 15 minutes later to collect the mail. One-third of the large refuse can was filled with mail, according to Kelly.

Compere was not the only witness to the mail dump. Another resident reported to police that he saw the mail carrier park a Postal Service mail van on Harvard Street just west of Harvey Avenue, then watched as the carrier got out and walked into the nearby alley carrying mail. When the carrier returned to the vehicle, he did not have any mail. The neighbor then found “a large quantity of unopened mail” in Kelly’s garbage can, according to the police report.

While the incident was documented by the Oak Park Police Department, it does not have the authority to investigate the incident. The investigation is being handled by a postal inspector through the Postal Service. Wednesday Journal has reached out to the Postal Service for comment and awaits response.

Desertion of mail offences come with a weighty punishment. A New Jersey mail carrier received the maximum penalty of a one-year prison term and a $100,000 fine for discarding mail in a dumpster during the fall of 2020. The mail carrier admitted to dumping a total of 1,875 pieces of mail into a dumpster once in September and twice in October of that year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The dumped mail included 99 general election ballots.

Finding a great pile of undelivered mail in his garbage can came as a shock to Kelly, particularly because he had begun regularly receiving his mail again. Like many others in Oak Park, Kelly was only receiving mail every two or three days due to limited staffing at the post office. In recent months, he said the mail delivery had returned almost to normal.

Mail carriers have a challenging job. They are required to deliver mail six days a week regardless of the weather. Delivery shifts can begin as early as 4 a.m. and last as long as 12 hours. Noting the difficulties of the job, Kelly wondered if the mail carrier who dumped the mail into his garbage can had hit his breaking point.

“Maybe he just thought, ‘Oh, screw this.’”

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