Elected officials from Alaska want the U.S. Postal Service to do more to intercept shipments of illegal narcotics mailed to Juneau, Petersburg and other Southeast Alaska communities. Senator Lisa Murkowski is among those seeking more postal inspectors or better cooperation with local, state and federal law enforcement.
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In a June 8 letter to the Postmaster General, Murkowski writes the postal service has become a main conduit for drug trafficking in the Panhandle. She asks the postal service to take action to make sure the mail is not an avenue for narcotic shipments. The Republican senator suggests an agreement between the postal service and local law enforcement that would allow police officers in the communities to inspect incoming mail.
State Republican representative Cathy Munoz of Juneau wrote to Murkowski and the rest of the Congressional delegation last month asking them to pressure the postal service to assign a postal inspector to Southeast. Munoz writes the U.S. mail has become the primary source of heroin and methamphetamines in the capital city.
Petersburg police chief Jim Agner agrees the Postal Service is the main source of illegal drug distribution, not just in Southeast Alaska but nationwide. Agner says other agencies have made changes to make it harder to import drugs. “TSA has somewhat made a damper on body-carrying and bringing things through airplanes. And again the ferry service is starting to do more of that stuff particularly down in Bellingham,” Agner said. “And so the post office pretty much is a wide open source of sending things. United Parcel Service, Fedex, those agencies allow drug investigators into their systems to be able to do drug investigations. So the one safe place is the post office right now. So that’s the one place we really need to concentrate on being able to do drug investigations.”
Agner says allowing local, state or federal law enforcement to inspect mail coming into Alaska would help with the limited staff of the Postal Inspection Service in Alaska. That’s the federal law enforcement agency charged with oversight of the mail. Dave Schroader, public information representative for the service says postal inspectors work hard to stop drug shipments through the mail.
Schroader would not discuss staffing levels in Alaska but says his agency has more than one inspector working in the state. “We have individuals assigned throughout the whole state and that’s probably an easier way to state it that Southeast Alaska is covered by postal inspectors and our staffing we feel is sufficient,” Schroader said. “Could it improve? Absolutely. Could we use with some more postal inspectors? We can always use with more postal inspectors.” He says the service arrested over 1,300 individuals nationwide in 2011 for drug trafficking but did not have information about arrests in Alaska.
In her letter to the delegation, Representative Munoz writes that authorities found ten packages with narcotics worth over $300,000 dollars during two and a half days of inspection over the past two years in Southeast. Law enforcement officials have seized heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine in packages mailed to Petersburg in the past few years.