PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A troubling trend is making its way to Hampton Roads, as robberies of mail carriers across the U.S. are up more than 75%.

U.S. Postal Inspectors say tips are coming in about two recent mail carrier robberies in Portsmouth.

They say two mail carriers were recently robbed while trying to deliver the mail.

“They approached the first carrier, assaulted him, were able to get some postal property off of him, as they left the area a couple blocks away they spotted another and it appears they pulled up to him and also robbed him,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Tom Sylvester.

One of the victims couldn’t go on camera, but told us he was choked. When we asked him why he came back to work, he said he wouldn’t let it stop him from doing his job.

The first robbery happened May 18 near Channing Avenue and Prospect Parkway in Portsmouth. The second happened about a half mile away on Redgate Drive, near Victory Boulevard and George Washington Highway.

Postal Inspectors say the carriers were approached by two men wearing black clothing and face coverings, and at least one was armed with a gun. The third man was driving the car.

They say both robberies happened between 2 and 2:15 p.m. and postal property was taken in both incidents.

Sylvester said they always encourage mail carriers to let authorities know if they’re being followed.

“Really, what we try to get across to them is to be aware of their surroundings when they’re delivering mail so they aren’t caught off guard by anybody,” Sylvester said.

Robbing a mail carrier is a federal offense, and suspects could receive sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

The tough sentence, though, hasn’t stopped robberies of postal workers from surging nationally to nearly 500 in 2022, according to U.S. Postal Inspection Service data.

Sylvester said recently, they’ve investigated more cases than they’re accustomed to in this area, but it’s still rare.

“This is a top priority for us,” Sylvester said. “We are the law enforcement arm of the postal service so the carrier’s safety and security and the security of the mail is our top priority. We investigate these cases vigorously. We’ve had a lot of success in the past with other similar cases with identifying suspects and arresting them.”

Sylvester said they have leads on who these suspects might be, but they’re still building their case. He says it’s important to get these suspects off the street.

“It’s important to the community that we get these people off the streets,” Sylvester said, “because if they’re robbing postal workers, they’re most likely robbing other people so we want to make sure we get them locked up so they’re not a danger to the community.”

There is a reward of up to $50,000 in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects who committed these crimes.

Call 1-877-876-2455 if you know anything about these crimes, and reference case number 4039433.