New Small Device Uses Laser to Help Police Quickly Identify Drugs

    Police in Massachusetts are using a handheld device with a low-power laser that helps them to quickly identify drugs. The device, which looks like a game console, is called the Thermo Scientific TruNarc.

    The device can be used to scan small bags of drugs, and gives police almost instant identification, according to the Associated Press. Police in Quincy, Massachusetts, who have been testing the device for six months, say it saves them time and money. Police departments in Chicago and Los Angeles also have been testing the device.

    Police traditionally have needed to use chemical test kits to identify drugs. The substance is placed in a plastic pouch that contains vials of chemicals. The officer breaks the vials in the pouch and shakes it, and checks to see what color the substance turns. Cocaine turns blue, for instance.

    Each substance has its own testing kit. That means police officers may have to use several kits before they positively identify the substance they are testing. The officers must handle the drugs, and potentially could be exposed to them. Once an officer identifies a substance, it must then be sent to a state lab to confirm the findings, which could take weeks or even months. This causes delays in prosecuting cases, the article notes.

    TruNarc employs the same scientific techniques used in the lab, the company says. The officer holds the sample bag against the device and presses a scan button. The device does a quick analysis and provides a result.

    Police say it can be effective as an initial screen, but a second lab test would still be necessary to prosecute the case in court. The article notes the device cannot test for marijuana.

    Each TruNarc device will sell for just under $20,000.


    February 2012