Cover: The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security

The Role of the United States Postal Service in Public Safety and Security

Implications of Relaxing the Mailbox Monopoly

Published Oct 7, 2008

by Lois M. Davis, Michael S. Pollard, Jeremiah Goulka, Katherine Mack, Russell Lundberg, Paul S. Steinberg


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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, we 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. Relaxing the Mailbox Rule would also 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.

This research was sponsored by the United States Postal Service and was conducted under the auspices of the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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