Mail handlers on alert in wake of Austin, TX package bombings


As police in Austin, Texas are on the hunt for a serial bomber who has been using package delivery services to deliver explosives, mail handlers across the country are on edge.

On Tuesday, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department’s Hazardous Devices and Explosives Squad responded to an store on the 2700 block of Prairie Avenue in Beloit for a suspicious package, which ultimately did not contain a threat.

The people behind Rockford’s Postal Shoppe at Edgebrook Center say they have a proven method to detect suspicious packages.

“We’re pretty safe around here,” says Kim Czerniewski, manager at the Postal Shoppe.

The management team says they’re not afraid to ask customers questions to determine whether what they’re shipping is dangerous.

“We have ways to go around being suspicious on suspicious boxes,” says Larry Hikle, the Postal Shoppe owner. “We have found suspicious activity. If you ask enough questions, you know suspicious boxes, so you could always get a hold of your local law enforcement and have them open them up and inspect them.”

Hikle says suspicious packages don’t often come through his shop, but it has happened before. He says, one time, he had a customer try to overnight a box of cards.

“Nobody will overnight a box unless they want to know what the cost is, first,” he says. “Then, why would you overnight cards, spending $80 for cards? There’s red flags all over my system.”

In that case, Hikle turned the package over to authorities. It turned out that the box contained more than $5,000 in cash.

“People can lie,” Czerniewski says. “They can say, ‘yeah, there’s nothing in there.’ They can come in just smooth, calm, and collected, or they could’ve given the package to somebody and say, ‘can you please ship this?'”

The Postal Shoppe also says customers should notify the recipient of the package to expect something in the mail. That way, when the package shows up on their doorstep, they don’t have to worry that something may be wrong.”

Hikle says, “We tell our customers to make sure you tell them what day something will be there, and the anticipated day it will be there. We used to give them a tracking [code] and they could watch and anticipate it. As [for] what happened in Austin, you could be on the lookout.”

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