GRAFTON— The Grafton Rotary Club welcomed a member of what is often times referred to as “America’s oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency”, Charles W. Gerhart, Postal Inspector, to their meeting on Wednesday.
Gerhart got his start in law enforcement in Wheeling, where he served as a police officer for six years, before becoming a Postal Inspector, in 2005.
Gerhart revealed that his office is located in Clarksburg, and houses only himself and one other inspector. He covers postal-related crimes all over the northern half of the state.
“My jurisdiction pertains to anything involving the mail. Mail theft, mail fraud, assaulting a postal worker, those are all federal crimes that I handle,” shared Gerhart.
He shared that although they were not always referred to as Postal Inspectors, the job has been around since the Revolutionary War and the Frontier days, when mail was transported by horses and trains.
“Back in those days, people would send gold or even diamonds through the mail, which was transported by train, and people knew this, and would try to rob the mail trains. That’s where the Postal Inspectors would come in. They would be aboard the mail trains to protect these valuables,” explained Gerhart.
He went on to share that in 1792, mail theft was a crime punishable by death and by 1873 The Comstock Laws came into effect. These laws were the first enforceable Federal Obscenity Statute, that prevented any kind if obscene or derogatory mail from being sent.
“Postal Inspectors deal with a lot of dangerous things. In 1919 there were 36 mail bombs send out in New York City alone,” Gerhart expressed. “We handle some dangerous mail investigations, where people will try to send poisons through the mail.”
He made reference to the 2001 incidents of Anthrax being sent through the mail, which claimed the lives of several postal workers.
Today, the majority of Gerhart’s cases are drug related. He would estimate that a resounding 95 percent of his cases deal with drugs.
“There are ways that people can soak paper in drugs and send it to inmates. Money laundering is also a big issue, people sending thousands of dollars in the mail to pay for their drugs,” he said.
Gerhart shared that in all Postal Inspectors have more than 200 Federal Statutes, and there are nearly 1,500 inspectors throughout the nation.
Rotarian Wendy Parsons asked Gerhart what types of things are illegal to send through the mail, that the average person may not realize in which he answered with, ammunition, handguns and wine.
“Some people might think it is okay to send these things but it’s actually illegal to send any of those,” he stated.
Gerhart went on to say that his job also includes protecting all postal workers, as well as post offices.
“If someone breaks into a post office, I will more than likely get that call,” he said.
According to Gerhart Postal Inspectors work very closely with local and state police entities in handling the “smaller” mail related crimes.
“Mail box vandalism, for instance is something we would hand over to the local police. We really depend on our local partners,” Gerhart declared.