Can STOP Act help reduce drug trafficking via USPS loophole?

Forwarders and carriers in the United States are already taking part in the air cargo advance screening (ACAS) program to help prevent explosives and illegal drug from entering the country via the cargo supply chain. But what is being done about narcotics being sent via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) which still handles the lion’s share of e-commerce entering the country?

A new piece of legislation passed in Congress last year, called the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act may be able to close a loophole used by traffickers looking to smuggle dangerous synthetic drugs – such as fentanyl, carfentanil and MDMA – via the less-regulated mail service. Under the new STOP Act provisions, the USPS was supposed to be providing electronic shipper and receiver identification data on 70% of all foreign packages entering the U.S. by Dec. 31, 2018, and 100% of these parcels shipped from China.

Early data suggest that the STOP provisions can have an impact. A report from the group Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP) said that a limited pilot project being conducted by USPS, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), was able to the airport’s international mail  was able to intercept 186 shipments of fentanyl in fiscal year 2018.

With advance notice of suspicious packages, CBP inspectors can have teams ready with specially trained canine units to sniff out these dangerous drugs and ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks in JFK’s security, Frank Russo, New York’s Port Director, told the online journal JFK’s post office, he said, is the largest facility handling international mail in the U.S.

However, according to a letter sent to Congress last week by Sens. Tom Carper and Rob Portman, the overall USPS figures for all of 2018 showed that electronic data was shared for only 70.7% of items mailed from China and just 52.8% for all international packages, suggesting that the Act is not yet being fully enforced. “While this shows increased collection of advance electronic data from 2017, USPS failed to meet the statutory requirement,” the letter stated.

The Senators also demanded regular briefings and updates from Congress on the “specific and detailed efforts your agencies must immediately implement to address these unacceptable vulnerabilities.”

Advance electronic data “is a proven tool for helping our law enforcement prevent drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from reaching American families and children,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to ASAP.


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