Cocaine dealers in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district are using a new way to ship their product: the U.S. Postal Service.
Police are investigating a string of drug-related robberies in the area that they believe are connected to the uptick in cocaine deliveries. Thieves are targeting businesses’ packages, stealing the drugs and leaving empty boxes behind, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“It’s new, very new,” San Francisco Police Sgt. Patrick Mahoney told the paper. “This is brand new.”
The first of the robberies occurred in early May, when the owner of a Tenderloin restaurant received a phone call at his business: Someone was holding one of his employees hostage, and they wanted money. They also wanted drugs.
The owner agreed to meet the caller at his restaurant the next day. When the man arrived, he found a group of men waiting for him, and one of the men was holding his employee in a headlock, with a gun to his head. The owner quickly handed over $20,000 and the men left.
“I knew they were ready to kill somebody,” the owner told the Chronicle. “I was very scared.”
The next day, the owner’s business was robbed again. This time, the robbers got away with $40,000.
Police traced a phone number used by the robbers to a home in San Francisco’s Upper Haight neighborhood. That house was empty, but the landlord said a man had recently moved out who, according to neighbors, “acted suspiciously.”
Police said the robbers probably used a postal worker to get their drugs to the restaurant, and then stole the empty packages, according to the Chronicle.
“The key here is the postal service,” Mahoney said. “They’re using it to transport narcotics. That’s how they’re getting it out of the Tenderloin.”
The Tenderloin is one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, and is notorious for its high crime rates. It’s not known how many drug dealers are using the postal service to ship their product.
“I don’t think it’s a trend, but it’s a tactic,” Mahoney said. “I don’t think it’s widespread.”