In addition to preparing the anticipatory search warrant, investigators may consider placing an electronic alarm device within the suspect parcel.
This court-ordered tracking device emits a tone once placed inside the parcel.
When the recipient opens the parcel, the device emits a tone that alerts investigators that the parcel has been opened.
The placement and monitoring of this type of electronic device requires issuance of a court order.
Application for a court order-authorized mobile tracking device is a separate document from the anticipatory search warrant.
The mobile tracking device order should indicate that law enforcement placed the device in a suspected package parcel to track the parcel to its ultimate destination and to alert that the parcel has been opened.
No monitoring of conversation is permitted under these circumstances.
Typically, the initial tone of the device is a slow beep tone and once the alarm has been triggered, it emits a fast, flowing tone.
The criteria for use of an electronic device are the size of the parcel.
It is very difficult to place, for example, a device in an overnight envelope.
The box should be large enough to house this type of device.
Law enforcement agencies can purchase these electronic alarm devices from a variety of vendors.
The device is the size of a credit card or smaller, and less than 1/8in thick.
In preparation for the controlled delivery, investigators should conduct pre-surveillance of the targeted location in an attempt to identify any individuals related to the case or any suspicious activity at the location.
In a controlled delivery operation, law enforcement should take the same steps as for preparation of any search warrant execution.
An operational briefing should be conducted; entry teams and search teams will be assigned with regard to execution of the search warrant.
When conducting a controlled delivery with a commercial private carrier, loss prevention personnel will assist in the delivery. The facility will provide the necessary equipment such as a delivery truck, delivery attire, and necessary documents to accomplish the delivery. In a controlled delivery using U.S. mail, the U.S. Postal Inspector’s office will conduct the controlled delivery with the local, state, or other federal agency. The delivery will be conducted by someone wearing U.S. Postal Service attire.
During a controlled delivery, electronic surveillance should be used to secure evidence.
Electronic devices such as a body bugs may be used by the investigator making the controlled delivery for the purposes of safety and to obtain any evidentiary conversation with the suspect or suspects.
The use of video equipment to conduct electronic surveillance of the controlled delivery is suggested and can be used as evidence in the case.
Surveillance teams should be in place for mobile surveillance in case the suspect takes custody of the parcel and departs the location once the delivery has been made.
Mobile units as well as air support, if available, with either a fixed-wing plane or a helicopter, is suggested.
The decision to stop or detain the suspects is different in every case.
The circumstances will dictate the approach.
One of the difficulties in conducting controlled deliveries is the wait — how long it will take the individual to open the parcel after he takes delivery. This goes toward proving knowledge in a parcel case.
The electronic alarm device makes this easier. When an alarm device is not feasible due to the size of the parcel, investigators may find themselves playing a guessing game as to how long to give the individual before making entry to a location.
If no alarm device is available, investigators must give ample time for the parcel to be opened.
Again, circumstances will dictate what occurs. If the suspect departs a location and may have the parcel or the substance contained on his person, a decision may be made to detain the individual.
Experienced traffickers may wait long periods of time, even a number of days, before opening a parcel.
The agency must make a decision with respect to how long it will monitor the situation, which will depend on resources and other factors.
In many parcel cases, the use of a “drop house” or business is used.
A drop house is typically a location designated by the sender and receiver for a parcel to be delivered to.
Lower level associates typically staff it.
It may be a friend’s or relative’s home or business or an unknown residence where there is no relationship to the suspect, such as a vacant home that is for sale.
There are advantages to the use of a drop house by drug traffickers. Since it is not the suspect’s main residence, the receiver can claim that he had no knowledge of the parcel.
The parcel is generally not opened at that location but is picked up by associates and taken to another location where it is opened.
The difficulty in all of this is attempting to keep track of the parcel.
The parcel may be delivered at the drop house, at which time the appropriate individuals are contacted, and they arrive and take custody of the parcel.
If the package is large enough to be seen being removed from the location, investigators may attempt to conduct a surveillance and track the parcel with the tracking alarm device if one is placed.
Once the suspected parcel is taken into another location, whether a business or residence, investigators may wait until the alarm is triggered, and then make contact with individuals at the location, securing the residence, and obtaining a search warrant.
The law allows for law enforcement to be able to secure a residence and obtain a search warrant based on the circumstances described.
Once an anticipatory search warrant has been executed in a case where a parcel goes into an original location or premises, a number of investigative efforts take place.
During the search of a residence, investigators should look for telephone billing information.
Any telephone records showing out-oftown telephone numbers may be seized as part of the search warrant.
Followup efforts can be made by possibly identifying the source sender.
The interview of the receiver suspect should be conducted as soon as possible.
The individual may cooperate with law enforcement and enable investigators to use some innovative options to make a case with the sender.
In cooperation with law enforcement, the cooperative suspect may contact his source while law enforcement conducts a controlled monitored recorded telephone conversation between the cooperative individual and the source.
There may be an opportunity for a delivery of monies that are owed for the narcotics to be made by another jurisdiction, if the suspect cooperates.
Attempt to identify the source during the interview of the receiver suspect.
Obtain information about where the individual resides; names, telephone numbers, and other pertinent information.
Many agencies that have parcel task force groups have tried an investigative method known as a “reverse knock and talk.”
This is used where timeliness is a factor and the parcel could not be delivered due to a variety of circumstances, such as resource issues.
The reverse knock and talk is when investigators contact the individuals at the address on the label of the parcel containing the drugs.
Generally, the name will be fictitious.
The agents ask if they can speak with the party and ask if he has knowledge of a parcel being delivered at his location.
Many will deny any knowledge of the parcel.
Others will admit to having knowledge of the contents and will provide details about the package and its delivery.
The individual may cooperate and assist in follow-up operations.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the motto here.
Why not take a shot at trying to further the investigation, unless other information is developed and a long-term operation is warranted.
Follow-up efforts may include trash or garbage pulls from the suspect residence to determine what activity may be occurring.
Trash pulls are permissible from a residence or business if the trash is put out to the curb for collection.
Investigators should not take trash from the residence if it is near the home such as by the garage; it must be clearly left on the curb for collection, where there is no expectation by the owner that it will not be taken.
Trash should be examined for remnants or trace amounts of drugs, evidence of parcel activity such as discarded packaging from parcels received, and other evidence of narcotic activity.
Investigators have found trace amounts of drugs in discarded packages.
All of this evidence can be used if there is a pattern to track parcels being delivered at the location as well as build probable cause for a search warrant for the premises.