In 2022, the United States Postal Service (USPS) processed an average of 421 million pieces of mail daily. The volume of letters and packages makes security imperative to keep both postal workers and mail recipients safe.
According to a RaySecur report, nine out of 10 mail-related incidents utilized small mail items (50% letters and 41% parcels). White powders and drugs are the most common substances found in mail security incidents at 55% of all tracked threats in the U.S. Of those powders, 27% were unknown substances and 28% were determined to be drugs or narcotics.
An increasing challenge, according to the report, is drug-laced paper (paper that has been sprayed or soaked in the liquid form of a drug and left to dry). The paper has an easier time slipping through screening technology and physical examinations. The report also finds that quickly-changing drug formulas have made it harder for machines to identify and detect substances.
The report found that the majority of these powders are hoaxes designed to frighten the recipient. Depending on where the threat is sent, it can cause lengthy shutdowns and delays until the threat has been eliminated. Internationally, improvised explosive devices were 24% of mail threats.
Correctional facilities are also concerned about mail security. Contraband including drugs, weapons, money and electronics mean all mail has to be screened. When COVID-19 led to in-person visit restrictions, law enforcement saw a rise in mail-related contraband.
The report found that high-profile political decisions, such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade, led to an increase in mail threats from all sides of the debate. Geopolitical issues such as the war in Ukraine, and economic uncertainty, also led to increased mail security threats. The proportion of U.S. state and local governments receiving threats nearly doubled in 2022.
Internationally, government offices and facilities made up 61% of mail related attacks. Threatening letters — messages that threatened harm or violence — made up 18% of threats. The number of injuries from mail threats increased by 53%, the majority as a result of parcel deliveries.