The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security: Implications of Relaxing the Mailbox Monopoly

The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security: Implications of Relaxing the Mailbox Monopoly

The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security: Implications of Relaxing the Mailbox Monopoly

The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security: Implications of Relaxing the Mailbox Monopoly

Synopsis

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has long held a statutory monopoly to deliver mail to mailboxes (the Mailbox Rule). Critics have argued against it, mainly on economic, anti-monopoly grounds and on property rights grounds for mailbox owners. But relaxing the Mailbox Rule may have ramifications in other areas-in particular, public safety and security. Based on descriptive analysis of the United States Postal Inspection Service (IS) reported-incident database, the authors find that the main risk to the public of opening mailbox access may be in terms of theft from the mailbox. An increase in mail theft might occur because more people would make deliveries to the mailbox, increasing opportunities for mail theft. In addition, depending on how the Mailbox Rule is relaxed, one would expect greater variability in personnel in terms of the type of training that personnel have received. Relaxing the Mailbox Rule would also limit the number of crimes that the IS polices, denying the public the benefit of the only law enforcement agency that specializes in this field and make it more complicated and costly for the IS to police the crimes still in its jurisdiction. The authors offer recommendations to address these concerns.

Excerpt

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has long held statutory monopolies to deliver mail and to require that only U.S. mail be delivered to the mailbox. While the USPS has defended its monopolies as necessary to fulfill its mission to provide service to every delivery point in the United States, several critics have argued against the monopolies, primarily on economic, antimonopoly grounds related to leveling the playing field for other competitors and on property rights grounds for mailbox owners. However, sometimes lost in the economic debate surrounding the monopolies is the fact that relaxing the monopolies may have ramifications in other areas—in particular, public safety and security. When it comes to delivering mail, there are several possible public safety and security concerns, including, for example, mail fraud, identity theft, and even terrorism, as demonstrated by prior use of the mail to send letter bombs and anthrax.

Given the potential public safety and security concerns, the USPS asked the RAND Corporation to assess the security implications of relaxing the USPS’s monopoly on delivering to the mailbox (known variously as the Mailbox Restriction, the Mailbox Rule, or the Mailbox Monopoly) to allow private couriers to deliver directly to mailboxes as well. Specifically, the project addresses whether relaxing the Mailbox Rule would present a public safety risk to carriers, couriers, and customers. To do so, RAND researchers used a combination of qualitative analyses (e.g., literature review, key-actor interviews with USPS staff and external experts, and a survey of consumers) and descriptive quantitative analyses (e.g., of incident databases collected by the United . . .

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