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The United States Postal Inspection Service (or USPIS) is the law enforcement arm of the United States Postal Service. Its jurisdiction is defined as "crimes that may adversely affect or fraudulently use the U.S. Mail, the postal system or postal employees."

An agency with approximately 4,000 employees, 2,000 criminal investigators, an armed uniformed division with 1,000 personnel, forensic laboratories and a robust communications system, and with 1,000 technical and administrative support personnel, the USPIS leads and assists in numerous joint federal and state investigations.


The Postal Inspection Service is one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the United Statesmarker. It traces its origins back to 1772, when colonial Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin appointed a "surveyor" to regulate and audit the mails.

In 1801, the title of "surveyor" was changed to Special Agent. Thus, the Service's origins—in part—predate the Declaration of Independence, and therefore the United States itself. As Franklin was Postmaster under the Continental Congress and was George Washington's first Postmaster, his system continued.

In 1830, the Special Agents were organized into the Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations. The Postal Inspection Service was the first federal law enforcement agency to use the title Special Agent for its officers. Congress changed this title to Inspector in 1880.

For some time, one of their primary duties was the enforcement of obscenity prohibitions under the Comstock Act.

Jurisdiction and activities

USPIS was at one time the only investigative agency of the Postal Service; however, many of its internal oversight duties were transferred to the USPS Office of Inspector General. These duties tended to be in the internal fraud, waste and abuse categories.

The OIG primarily took over the Postal Inspection Service's audit function, as well as fraud (against the USPS) waste and abuse.

The USPIS is primarily an investigative agency comprising of plain-clothes federal criminal investigators entitled "Postal Inspectors" whose primary mission is "to protect the U.S. Postal Service, its employees and its customers from criminal attack, and protect the nation's mail system from criminal misuse". It has responsibility for over 700,000 Postal Service employees and billions of pieces of mail transported through air, land, rail and sea world wide a year.

the September 11, 2001 attacks, the USPIS has also investigated several cases where ricin, anthrax and other toxic substances were sent through the mail. Although USPIS has a wide jurisdiction, USPIS investigations can be categorized into these seven types of investigative teams and functions:

1) Fraud: These types of investigation involve crimes that use the mails to facilitate fraud against consumers, business and government. Federal statutes that surround these types of investigations include, mail fraud, and other criminal statutes when they are tied to the mails such as bank fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, wire fraud, and Internet/computer fraud. Mail fraud is a statute that is used in prosecuting many white collar crimes, this would include, Ponzi schemes, 419 frauds, and other white collar crimes where the mail was used to facilitate the fraud.
2) External Crime & Violent Crime Teams: The External Crimes Function of USPIS is a function that investigates any theft of US mail by non employees, assaults of postal employees and or theft and robberies of postal property. This function also investigates robberies of postal facilities and personnel, burglaries of postal facilities, and assaults and murders against postal personnel. This investigative function focuses on ensuring that the sanctity and trust in the U.S. Mail system is maintained.
3) Prohibited Mailing Investigations: Prohibited mailing investigations are USPIS investigations that focus on the prohibited mailing of contraband including: narcotics, precursors and proceeds; child pornography and other sexually prohibited materials; and hazardous materials to include, mail bombs, nuclear biological and chemical weapons. The laundering of narcotics and other criminal proceeds through the use of Postal Money Orders are sometimes categorized under this investigative function.
4) Aviation and Homeland Security: USPIS investigations also include the securing and protecting of transportation of US Mail and any risk that might compromise the security of the homeland because of these mails. Security Audits are conducted by these teams to ensure that postal service maintains facilities secure from not only theft and robberies but also natural and manmade disasters.
5) Revenue Investigations: USPIS investigates cases where fraudulent practices are conducted by business and consumers that mail items without proper or counterfeit postage and indicia or crimes that defraud the USPS of revenue.
6) International Investigations and Global Security: This investigative function ensures that international mail is secured and any international business decisions and campaigns remains safe, and secure. USPIS maintains investigators in the US and in posts around the world for protection, liaison, and intelligence.
7) Joint Task Force Investigations: USPIS participates in joint task force investigations where laws applicable to the mail service are involved. These cases are often wide ranging and involve every law enforcement agency of the Federal Government. For example, USPIS participated in the largest count indictment and conviction in NASA history, the Omniplan case, that put seven companies out of business and ended with the conviction of Omniplan owner, Ralph Montijo, on 179 felony counts.

The Postal Inspection Service operates one main forensic crime laboratory that is staffed by forensic scientists whose expertise includes the examination of physical and digital evidence. The crime laboratory also has several satellite offices across the country whose primary mission is computer forensics. The Postal Inspection Service's Technical Services Division (TSD) provides investigative support through the use of new technology and the operations of two national communication centers known as the National Law Enforcement Control Centers or the "NLECC". [In 2003 Immigration and Customs Enforcement renamed their national communication center, previously known as "Sector" to the "National Law Enforcement COMMUNICATIONS Center" also known as "NLECC", USPIS NLECC and ICE NLECC are two independent federal law enforcement radio communications centers but coincidentally share the same acronym and an almost identical name).

The National Postal Museummarker in Washington, DC exhibits "U.S. Postal Inspectors: The Silent Service" until February 28, 2010.

Postal Police

With the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 (effective 1971), the Bureau of the Chief Postal Inspector becomes the “United States Postal Inspection Service.” A uniformed police force was added to patrol in and around selected high-risk postal facilities in major metropolitan areas in the United States and its territories. These uniformed officers provide a visible deterrent at Postal facilities located primarily in urban high-crime areas and respond to emergencies including disturbances, assaults, theft, robberies and other incidents threatening the safety of postal employees and customers. Postal Police are required to qualify with agency issued shotguns and their assigned sidearms.Postal Police Officers official firearm was the Beretta 92D Centurion 9mm semi-auto from the mid 1990's. Prior to that it was the Ruger SP101 .357 cal revolver.

  • Title 18 United States Code Section 3061
      • (c)(1) The Postal Service may employ police officers for duty in connection with the protection of property owned or occupied by the Postal Service or under the charge and control of the Postal Service, and persons on that property, including duty in areas
outside the property to the extent necessary to protect the property and persons on the property.
      • (2) With respect to such property, such officers shall have the power to—

        • (A) enforce Federal laws and regulations for the protection of persons and property;
        • (B) carry firearms; and
        • (C) make arrests without a warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the presence of the officer or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony.
      • (3) With respect to such property, such officers may have, to such extent as the Postal Service may by regulations prescribe, the power to—
        • (A) serve warrants and subpoenas issued under the authority of the United States; and
        • (B) conduct investigations, on and off the property in question, of offenses that may have been committed against property owned or occupied by the Postal Service or persons on the property.
      • (4)(A) As to such property, the Postmaster General may prescribe regulations necessary for the protection and administration of property owned or occupied by the Postal Service and persons on the property. The regulations may include reasonable penalties, within the limits prescribed in subparagraph (B), for violations of the regulations. The regulations shall be posted and remain posted in a conspicuous place on the property.
        • (B) A person violating a regulation prescribed under this subsection shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 30 days, or both.

USPIS Academy

The Postal Inspection Service maintains a law enforcement academy (the Career Development Division (CDD)), located in the city of Potomac, MDmarker.


In 2006 the Postal Inspection Service created the 2 SMRT 4U campaign which is aimed at teen girls, the group most targeted by online sexual predators, and included a [139816] site to educate teens about how to chat and post wisely online. The Postal Inspection Service was honored with the Justice Department's Internet Safety Award for its dedication to protecting children and fighting child exploitation.

See also


External links

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