Salt Lake postal inspector Donald Obritsch has a gun and will travel - throughout Utah, most of Idaho, northern Nevada and Oregon.

Obritsch, 29, a Post Office employee for 11 years, started as a mail carrier in Kent, Wash., near Seattle in 1978. He attended City University in Seattle and, after graduating in 1985 with a degree in business administration, he applied for a job as a postal inspector and was accepted. After an 11-week course in Maryland, he was appointed to the Salt Lake office.Recently, with the help of West Valley City police detective Cal Chilton, Obritsch was able to break up a theft ring and solve 23 burglaries of postal dollar bill changing machines from Clearfield to Sandy.

"Thieves used keys and, in desperation, pry bars, to break into the dollar bill changers and stole $6,300 in a few short months," Obritsch said. "Two people were arrested and both pleaded guilty to two of the thefts, were fined, and the ringleader was sentenced to prison."

Obritsch, one of 2,000 postal inspectors nationwide and one of three stationed in Salt Lake City, investigated scores of criminal cases last year and had 41 arrests. But even though there is considerable crime against the postal service in his four-state jurisdiction, he says, "postal crime in the Salt Lake area is minor compared with postal crime in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

"There are 125 postal inspectors stationed in the Los Angeles area, for instance.

"Nationwide last year, there were 10,470 arrests and 8,114 convictions for postal crimes, which included everything from mail theft, robbery, burglary, mail fraud, pornography, narcotics and bombs and explosives cases."

Obritsch, who has been called on to help other federal agencies and local police agencies in arrests and criminal investigations, carries a department-issued Ruger three-inch .357 Magnum revolver and is a top shooter. Recently, he fired a perfect score during a qualifying shoot and was awarded a trophy. "I believe in being skilled with weapons," he said.