What to watch for in suspicious letters, packages

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Emergency Management and Antiterrorism officials are reminding members of the U.S. forces community to be vigilant concerning suspicious packages and letters.

The reminder follows two separate incident reports in the U.S. in Austin, Texas after packages exploded at the doorstep of homes earlier this month.

All U.S. military affiliated personnel and their families who observe someone placing a package outside an office building or a home, and cannot confirm that the individual is an employee of either the USPS, FEDEX, UPS, or other official delivery service, should report this to the appropriate authorities. Everyone needs to remember if you see something, say something.

Force protection and security officials offer the following information to help identify and safely deal with suspicious packages. The first thing the experts say is that any suspicious-looking package or letter should be treated as a potential bomb.

It’s equally important to know that if there is suspicion that a bomb is in the vicinity, the job of finding and disposing of it should be left to the experts: explosive ordnance disposal teams, military police or security experts. Untrained personnel should never attempt to deal with bombs themselves.

There are several questions that can help determine if a suspicious package might contain a bomb:

• Is the package from a stranger or an unknown place?

• Is the return address missing?

• Is the package addressed to a recipient by title only?

• Does the address include a mismatched or incorrect name and title?

• Is there an excessive amount of postage, tape or string on the package?

• Is the size abnormal, excessive or unusual?

• Are there misspelled or poorly typed words in the package’s address?

• Do the locations on the postmark and the return address differ?

• Are there restrictive markings on the package, such as “personal”?

• Does the handwriting appear to be in a “foreign” style?

• Does the item smell peculiar?  (Many explosives used by terrorists smell like shoe polish or almonds.)

• Is the package unusually heavy or light? Is it rigid or bulky?

• Is the package lopsided or uneven in balance?

• Does the package have oily stains, discolorations or crystallization on it?

• Is there a “springiness” to the top, bottom or sides?

• Are there protruding wires or strings?

• Is the package marked “registered” in a manner that raises suspicion?  (For example, when the recipient is not expecting a registered package.)

If any of these questions can be answered, “yes,” the package or letter should be turned over to security experts immediately. Never touch or move a suspicious package or letter. Do not cut tape, strings or wrappings or immerse in water. Isolate the package. Do not shake, bump, open or taste it.

Call the Military Police, local police or security officials immediately at civ. 0711-680-5262 or dial 112.

Community members can also find the iReport/Watch reporting icon on the USAG Stuttgart mobile app available on iTunes and Google Play stores. If you see something, say something.

Suspicious mail