Remember when you could mail something and expect it to be delivered to the addressee?

Benjamin Franklin, the founder of the U.S. Post Office, must be spinning in his Boston grave over what has happened to his creation.  I am sure that I was not alone in being shocked when, four weeks ago, just prior to the holiday peak mailing season:

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has warned people not to use its blue boxes on specific dates. It particularly warned about the chances of theft from these on Sundays and holidays.

I hadn't ever noticed blue mailboxes being cut open and their contents stolen.  So how, I wondered, does this thievery work?  An answer has just come from Chicago, where civil order goes to die.  The invaluable CWBChicago reports:

A US Postal Service mail carrier was robbed at gunpoint in the West Loop on Saturday morning, according to a Chicago police report. It's the latest in a series of similar crimes where armed robbers force postal workers to give up the master keys to the mail system.

Master keys, eh?  Just the sort of thing to use on a blue mail collection box.  And CWBChicago found mailmanscott to provide a photograph:

Via CWBChicago.

Of course, this being Chicago, the crooks were particularly egregious in their choice of location for the theft:

Saturday's robbery occurred one block south of the Chicago Police Department's training academy.

Two men, both wearing masks, rolled up in a dark SUV and pulled a gun on the mail carrier in the 1300 block of West Van Buren around 11:30 a.m., the CPD report said. After getting the victim's work keys, the offenders told him to run away.

Experts say the stolen master keys, also known as "arrow keys," are used by theft crews that steal checks, credit cards, and documents to fuel identity theft operations.

The loss of secure mail service is a clear sign of our decline to third-world status, a journey well underway now.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol.

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