24-7 post office ends
Trespassing, messy vagrants causing trouble
Officials will no longer allow 24-hour access to Grand Junction’s downtown post office, after continual problems involving vagrants sleeping in the lobby, vandalism and assaults created safety concerns for patrons and the mail staff.
The U.S. Postal Service announced earlier this month that it would discontinue overnight access to the lobby, which includes a self-serve kiosk for mailing packages and purchasing stamps, as well as post office boxes. The decision came after a pattern of trespassing, loitering, fights and harassment incidents, some involving drugs and alcohol and repeat offenders.
In 2016, the Grand Junction Police Department responded to the post office’s address, 241 N. Fourth St., for 99 incidents, including periodic checks on the premises. Officers have already dealt with 20 incidents so far in 2017, according to information provided by the department.
“This past year in particular there’s been a preponderance of incidents regarding safety and health,” said Chris Buzzell, customer services supervisor at the downtown post office. “It seems like this year has been worse than ever.”
It’s customary for post offices to allow 24-hour access to post office boxes, Buzzell said, and until now, the 2,436 patrons who have rented those boxes downtown could check their mail in the wee hours. But concerns over repeated incidents with homeless people sleeping, fighting and trespassing in the lobby outweighed the convenience of the overnight access.
“We had a number of customers complain because they felt unsafe at late hours,” said David Rupert, U.S. Postal Service spokesman. “It was just becoming such an issue, a security issue for our customers and a security issue for the mail.”
Rupert added that there were multiple occurrences of vandalism and several incidents which required significant cleanup in the lobby area.
“Let’s just say it’s been a little bit of everything,” Buzzell said, declining to elaborate on the extent of the mess.
Police reports indicate that some of the homeless subjects involved with alleged trespassing and other incidents are frequenting the post office. One in particular, Carlos Eldon Alcon, 53, was issued summonses for trespassing three times since Jan. 7, all incidents that occurred between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In one instance, the officer found Alcon lying under a desk south of the entrance, inside the building. An empty Kentucky Deluxe bottle was on the floor and Alcon complained that he had finished his whiskey, the officer wrote. The next night, the same officer encountered Alcon at the post office at 11:25 p.m. and issued him another summons for trespassing. Alcon refused to sign it and called him a “Nazi,” according to police records.
On another occasion the same week, a homeless man named Casey O’Dean Tefertiller, 31, was found under a desk and was confronted by an officer who recognized him from multiple other trespassing incidents, according to police records. Tefertiller said he was under the influence of marijuana and “stated he had been issued so many tickets for trespassing there that the municipal judge had become frustrated with him.”
Buzzell said there was no rhyme or reason to the overnight incidents and employees became acquainted with several repeat offenders.
After weighing the costs and benefits of keeping the lobby open after-hours, as well as consulting with police and their own inspection service, managers decided to limit the lobby hours to 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Overall, Buzzell said patrons have been supportive of the decision.
“The whole reason behind it is the safety of our employees and our customers and the sanctity of the mail,” Buzzell said.