More than 3,000 new postal workers have been hired in the D.C. area recently, as the post office works to reduce the number of late mail deliveries -- two years after a mail carrier was murdered working after dark.
Tyson Barnette was delivering mail at about 7:30 p.m. in November 2013 when someone shot him and left him for dead. Police have not made an arrest in the case.
Alton Branson, a 38-year carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, says Barnette's slaying raised fears among his colleagues throughout the region.
"A lot of carriers were apprehensive about being out in the dark, about their safety," Branson said.
An investigation launched after Barnette's killing revealed after-dark mail deliveries had spiked 14 percent in the D.C. area in the previous months.
A letter carrier returned from his or her route after 5 p.m. 100,000 times in the D.C. region in the months before Barnette died, the review found. Late deliveries from the Hyattsville Post Office and Columbia Heights came under particular scrutiny.
"We had a number of carriers that was robbed during that time frame," Branson said. "So, yeah, a lot of carriers were apprehensive."
The agency has been under pressure ever since to get trucks and carriers back earlier. That's led to more hiring -- including a class of 40 newly hired carriers who were sent through orientation at the Brentwood postal facility in D.C. Tuesday.
Delivering mail while it's still light outside helps customers, who need their mail, and helps carriers. "It's much safer," said Kenneth Branch of the Letter Carriers’ union. "People let dogs out after dark, you can't see holes in the ground, many areas are not well lit."
In the meantime, federal and local police are still trying to solve Tyson Barnette's murder. Barnette was killed while working his route on Reid Street in Cheverly, Maryland.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said it is staging daily meetings to review the case. Investigators have distributed 25,000 postcards and letters to the neighborhood seeking tips.
And a $125,000 reward remains on the table for anyone with information that helps crack the case.
"This is still an active murder case," said Julie Parker, a spokeswoman for Prince George's County Police. "This is by no means a closed case. We are working with our federal partners to try and bring it to a close."
"We know that there is someone out there who has got to have some information," Parker said.