As a detective in the Quincy, Mass., Drug Control Unit, Brian Coen is concerned about police officers’ safety when they’re out on the streets confronting drug dealers and users.
Quincy, a city of about 100,000 next door to Boston, has a drug problem. Its police force, with 240 officers, deals with opiates, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and, most recently, the emergence of “bath salts,” the street name for dangerous drugs containing synthetic cathinones.
“Officer safety is paramount to us,” Coen told me during a phone conversation.
A portable analytic device from Thermo FisherScientific is helping the Quincy Police Department, as well as other police departments and U.S. Customs agents nationwide, identify bath salts and other drugs right on the streets without harming themselves.
TruNarc v1.3 can identify up to 30 different types of the latest bath-salt threat, along with its previous library of analytics for other drugs.
I can’t help but think how this new technology could be useful in other verticals beyond law enforcement and border patrols. Wouldn’t it be a great fit for K-12 schools and campus security? Hospital ERs and other high-risk workplaces? All want to protect their security personnel on the job. And some of these drugs, such as bath salts, can work their way into your system just by touching them.
“First and foremost from a user standpoint, many of these substances we don’t have to touch now. We can scan through plastic bags of cocaine, crystal meth, bath salts. This method is quick, safe and fast,” Coen said. Previously, officers had to use a vial system to determine what drug they were dealing with, he said. \
Another positive is that TruNarc can be synched to a PC, allowing officers to scan information onto their computers. With TruNarc software, they can add other details that are particularly useful in filing their reports for court cases, he said. That’s a time-saver, he said, so they can get back out on patrol and secure the community.
Coen, a consultant for Thermo FisherScientific, has traveled around the country as a certified trainer for TruNarc. “Buzz is getting out there about the device,” he said.
He has trained police forces in Florida, Alabama, Texas and California; U.S. Customs agents in Miami; the DEA at Quantico and in Maine; a counter-drug task force in Pennsylvania; and other law enforcement entities to use the device.
TruNarc is based on Raman spectroscopy—an optical technique that compares the scanned material to a library of known substances, much like a fingerprint is compared to a database of known fingerprints, the company said. TruNarc can be updated by the manufacturer to stay ahead of emerging drug threats. For example, as new synthetic cathinones are introduced to the market, the manufacturer can update the TruNarc library, as was done with the TruNarc v1.3 release, the company said.