UC Police Issue Special Bulletin on Handing Letters and Parcels

January 08, 2010

Two University of California, Irvine, professors received envelopes containing an unidentified white powder and the words “Black Death” written on them on Jan. 4.

Neither professor was harmed, according to UCSF Police Chief Pamela Roskowski, who issued a special bulletin on Jan. 7.

While the probability of a UCSF employee receiving a suspicious letter or parcel in the mail is remote, the following advice is being provided to assist the community in identifying a suspicious letter or parcel in the mail.

Things to look out for in letters or parcels are as follows:

  • Come from a suspicious origin, especially if the postmark or name of the sender is unusual, unknown, or no further address is given
  • Have no return address or one that can’t be verified as legitimate. (It may show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address.)
  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you
  • Addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated. An addressee’s name/title may be inaccurate.
  • Have excessive or inadequate postage
  • Are unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped
  • Are stiffness or springiness of contents. (When checking, do not bend excessively.)
  • Gives off strange smells, particularly almond or other suspicious odors
  • Contains handwriting that is not familiar or indicates a foreign style not normally received by the recipient
  • Contains common words or names which are misspelled
  • Have rub on or have block lettering
  • Have restrictive markings such as “confidential” or “personal” or a horrific title appended to the name of the addressee
  • Have small holes in the envelope or package wrapping that could be a provision for an arming/safety wire
  • Rattle inside the envelope or package, possibly loose components of a device
  • Have visual distractions (i.e. currency, pornography).

Those who identify a letter or package as suspicious, should not let anyone near it. Leave the letter or package in an open area, such as a courtyard, porch, etc., where it is easily accessible to police personnel.

Take the following steps:

1. Place a telephone call to verify the sender and/or contents.
2. Do not open the article (or squeeze, drop, prod, or push it). Never submerge it in water.
3. Isolate the mailing but DO NOT place it in a confined space such as a desk drawer.
4. If on campus, notify the UCSF Police immediately by calling 476-1414 or 9-911. If at home, call 9-1-1 for your local Police Department.

This information has been supplied by the US Postal Service. Additional information on the transmission of harmful biological or chemical weapons through the mail can be found on the USPS site.

Related Link:


UCSF Police Department