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How postal inspectors are partners against crime

Many crimes today – from identity theft to the sale of illegal drugs – can involve the use of the U.S. mail


The U.S. Postal Inspection Service strives to inform its law enforcement partners about details that might indicate a mail-related crime.


By the U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Police officers responding to a crime scene will often see – or even sense – that something is out of place. It may be hard to put a finger on, but the gut tells you that something is not right. Many crimes today – from identity theft to the sale of illegal drugs – may involve the use of the U.S. Mail. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service strives to inform its law enforcement partners about those “out-of-place” details that might indicate a mail-related crime.

In that spirit of partnership, the Postal Inspection Service has developed a series of roll call videos to inform police officers and other first responders of signs to look for, as well as when and who to contact if a mail-related crime is suspected.

Here are just a few situations where it may be necessary to contact postal inspectors:


It’s a sad fact that for police departments in many parts of the nation, responding to drug overdoses is a weekly – or even daily – event. The misuse of, and addiction to opioids, including prescription pain killers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, is a serious national crisis that affects public health, as well as social and economic welfare.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016 alone, there were more than 42,000 deaths caused by opioid overdose. Currently, more than 90 Americans die each day after overdosing on opioids.

Often, these overdoses are due to prescription medicines or illicit drugs from local dealers, but when these drugs come through the mail, postal inspectors play a key role in tracking down the mailers.

Officers responding to a drug overdose should be on the lookout for opened mail and packages near the victim. Overdoses of synthetic drugs like fentanyl can occur so suddenly that victims are sometimes found lying next to an opened parcel their drugs were shipped in. The presence of opened or suspicious mail at the scene calls for contacting postal inspectors immediately at 877-876-2455. The address and tracking information on these items may assist the Inspection Service with locating the mailing’s origin; postal inspectors may also potentially intercept other deadly drug shipments before they reach more victims.

Postal inspectors also work closely with the DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. Its Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (OD-MAP) is a mobile app that assists public health, fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies in tracking known and suspected overdose incidents. Adding to the HIDTA OD-Map will make it even more possible to determine where these drugs are coming from and where they may be going.


Law enforcement officers responding to a scene or making an arrest should stay alert for the presence of mail addressed to people other than the suspect – especially if it is a large quantity of mail and/or it contains checks or credit cards. This is a tell-tale sign of possible mail theft, and postal inspectors should be contacted right away at 877-876-2455.

Whether it’s a check to the power company, a birthday card from Mom or a letter to a friend, the theft of any mail is a serious federal crime. Even if the envelope has been destroyed, the contents are still considered stolen from the mail if it was taken before delivery to the rightful owner.

It may be “only” one letter, but it’s important to the person sending and receiving it – and it’s important to the Postal Inspection Service, which wants to make sure all mail gets to the intended recipient. The Inspection Service also wants to make sure those who steal from or interfere with the U.S. Mail are caught and prosecuted.


Question: What’s covered in sticky tape, tied to string and found at the scene of a crime?

Answer: It could be evidence of a separate federal crime – mail theft.

Criminals are increasingly using low-tech devices (such as sticky rat traps or tape-covered bottles tied to a length of twine) to “fish” valuable mail from U.S. Postal Service collection boxes. Some of these thieves have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars by pilfering this “fished” mail for cash, credit cards and gift cards. Others target personal and payroll checks by “washing” and then changing the name of the payees to their own. Still others seek personal information, which they use to open fake checking or credit card accounts.

From the cash in a child’s birthday card to the Social Security numbers on a paystub, the contents of postal “blue boxes” make them an attractive target for thieves. Though the U.S. Postal Service is actively retrofitting collection boxes with anti-theft devices, thieves who know which boxes to target are still at work.

If you come across any of these “fishing” devices while making traffic stops or in the course of an investigation contact your local Postal Inspector or call 877-876-2455.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has resources local law enforcement agencies can use to help them in their daily activities. Contact them at 877-876-2455.

About the author

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. It supports and protects the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure and customers; it enforces the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and it ensures public trust in the mail. Over 2,400 postal inspectors, postal police, technical and administrative people are spread out over 17 divisions and the national headquarters in Washington. For more information, visit