By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Drug traffickers ship illegal drugs throughout the United States through virtually any form of transportation. For instance, traffickers may use:
- Private automobiles
- Commercial trucks
- Recreational vehicles
Another common way for traffickers to get illegal drugs to buyers is through the U.S. Postal Service. This method of sending drugs is attractive to drug traffickers due to its inherent anonymity and relatively low cost.
The United States Postal Inspection Service Works to Combat Illegal Drugs Sent by Mail
The United States Postal Inspection Service is at the forefront of combating illegal drugs that are shipped through the mail. Between October 2021 and June 2022, for instance, the Postal Inspection Service and its partners conducted:
- 1,207 seizures resulting in the confiscation of 6,205 pounds of methamphetamine
- 1,428 seizures resulting in the confiscation of 4,936 pounds of cocaine
- 822 seizures resulting in the confiscation of 1,951 pounds of fentanyl
- 91 seizures resulting in the confiscation of 95 pounds of heroin
According to the Postal Inspection Service, its efforts to prevent illegal drugs from being sent involve both domestic and foreign mail. This government agency also conducts criminal investigations and helps in the effort to dismantle drug trafficking organizations that use the Dark Web to sell and ship drugs to drug users.
The Postal Inspection Service has also created a national task force program. This program uses state and local police officers who partner with postal inspectors, utilizing local intelligence and networks to intercept illegal drugs in U.S. mail.
Related link: Illegal Fentanyl Poses an Ongoing Threat to US Communities
The Postal Inspection Service works with federal partners as well. These partners include federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Anyone Can Be Responsible for Shipping Illegal Drugs
Everyone – from sophisticated organized crime groups to individuals – can be responsible for shipping illegal drugs through the mail. According to the Postal Inspection Service, a year-long investigation resulted in the arrest and 18-year sentencing in federal prison of a mother and son. They sent 8,400 drug parcels by mail, using a Dark Web vendor called Meds4U.
The investigation resulted in the discovery of an estimated 75 pounds of methamphetamine, packaging, shipping supplies and scales. The criminals hid their cash in the wall of an apartment in Arlington, Texas.
Using K-9 Dogs to Detect Illegal Drugs in the Mail
To detect illegal drugs being shipped through the mail, law enforcement officers use K-9 dogs to detect drugs in packages at mailing facilities. These officers also utilize intelligence sources, undercover operations and confidential informants. Once someone is suspected of trafficking drugs by mail, investigators commonly track the drug shipment to identify everyone involved in the crime.
Trafficking illegal drugs through the mail is a federal offense and carries steep penalties. In a report by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General, investigators found that a cocaine trafficker “claimed to have used the Postal Service to successfully distribute nearly 4,000 shipments, stating that they had a 100 percent delivery success rate.
“In addition, of the 96 traffickers who indicated they used the Postal Service as their shipping provider, 43 percent (41) offered free, partial, or full reshipment if the package did not arrive to the buyer’s address because it was confiscated, stolen, or lost.” Offering reshipment if drugs are confiscated reflects the brazen use of the U.S. Postal Service by drug traffickers.
Related link: White-Collar Crime Costs Americans about $300 Billion Yearly
Where to Report Illegal Drug Activity Involving the US Mail
Ordinary citizens can help to combat the nationwide problem of illegal drugs being shipped through the mail. For example, if you observe a neighbor shipping frequent, unusual packages and an unusual odor emanating from that home, it is possible that drugs such as methamphetamine are being produced and shipped from that residence. You can report your observations to local law enforcement or to the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.
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