Two post offices — one in Riceboro, one in Fleming — were both robbed and vandalized between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Fleming office was so badly damaged on Dec. 1 that it has been put on “emergency suspension,” meaning all mail addressed to residents in the Fleming area is now routed through the Richmond Hill Post Office, Nancy Ross, postal spokesperson for South Georgia said. Customers can still drop mail off at a collection box on site and it will be picked up about midday by a rural carrier.
No employees were working at either office at the time of the break-ins.
“At this point, there is no indication that they [the burglaries] are linked,” Ross said during a telephone interview.
The offices are about 15 miles from one another.
Both post offices were found in disarray by morning shift employees at each location on separate days, but the robberies seemed very similar, Ross said.
According to a Dec. 18 Liberty County Sheriff’s Office report, an unknown person threw a brick through the front door, shattering the glass to enter the Riceboro Post Office. A second wooden door was kicked in, and several items in the building had been moved around, but nothing appeared to be missing. “The person(s) unknown unsuccessfully attempted to cut open the safe with cutting torch,” according to the report.
Computer equipment was stolen from the Fleming Post Office and property had been damaged during an unsuccessful attempt to break into the safe, Ross said.
In an unrelated incident, an armed robbery also occurred at the Fleming Food Mart. According to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office incident report filed Dec. 18, $1,879 was stolen from the register.
A Fleming postal worker was stabbed to death in 2002 during a robbery, but, Ross said, the property had been left alone until the burglary earlier this month.
No suspects have been arrested or charged with either crime.
All postal workers from the Fleming office have been moved to the Richmond Hill site, a little more than nine miles up the road. Employees from the Riceboro office have been moved as well. Although mail will be rerouted for residents who have placed curbside boxes in front of their houses, some are in disbelief that the office would close down so quickly.
“We knew it was coming eventually, but the way they done this …” Fleming resident Linda Ashcraft said. “It is nine miles [to the Richmond Hill office], but it was done so quickly and it is a shame they closed it all up.”
Ashcraft lives just a couple hundred yards from the post office and never needed to put a mailbox up until now. Even after the murder, she said, she always felt the post office was a safe place — not something that needed to be locked up and shut down, even temporarily.
“That post office was just as safe as any post office anywhere else. They had bars up on the windows, bars up on the doors. That post office was safe,” she said. “They just done it so quick and people haven’t had a chance to do anything about it. This post office has been there forever, you know? Just because it got robbed, that doesn’t mean it has to get closed down.”
Because the Fleming route is so small — only one carrier is needed to cover it — postal workers at Richmond Hill think it won’t be too long before holiday mail and bills are delivered to the area again.
“More and more people are putting boxes on the street,” Richmond Hill postmaster Rhonda Treu said. “The town is so small, the route has never been a full route. It used to be served out of Richmond Hill a long time ago.”
Although it isn’t too far of a hike to get to the Richmond Hill office, Treu said she understands residents’ frustrations.
“We try to make it the smoothest transition possible,” she said. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”
Currently, Ross said, it is unknown how long the suspension will be in effect.
“Local law enforcement has been involved [in both cases], and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is involved at the Fleming office. That’s the way things stand right now,” she said. “It is under evaluation and investigation. We’ll decide before too long.”