GLOUCESTER TWP. If there's one thing law enforcement officials know about drug runners, it's that when it comes down to it, the crooks can be pretty inventive.
From hiding drugs in altered shaving cream cans to stashing narcotics in a baby's diaper, there seems to be no length that smugglers won't go to.
That's why police across the country are being instructed on ways to carry out interdiction practices to curb illegal activity. On Tuesday, the Northeast Counter-Drug Training Center took its show on the road to Camden County.
The whole thing of interdiction is not to stop and search everyone, it's the art of stopping and seeing things that's not normal, James Eagleson, Chief Operations Officer for the 4:20 Group, LLC said.
The former South Carolina State Transport Police officer teaches dozens of classes on how to identify potential drug trafficking each year.
The one taught this week at the Camden County Regional Emergency Training Center focuses on demonstrations on how a regular vehicle can be loaded up with illegal items with minimal effort.
Law enforcers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware took part Tuesday in the hands-on training, which included about a dozen actual vehicles packed with faux contraband.
We don't need to learn by what people had done, we need to learn by getting out there and doing it, Eagleson said. This is really the only way to learn. Once you see it, you'll never forget it.
Instructor Bruce Parent showed how a regular commercial van can be stripped down and loaded up with drugs in small crevices throughout the vehicle.
It's out there, we don't make it up, Parent said. You want to be the best you can be and this is how you do it, out there, sweating and actually doing it.
In the next van, one the Parent called a granny van he showed how a standard stow n' go" feature can be used for illegal activity
There's over 100 kilos in here, he said, adding That's a natural void in every stow n' go made.
Sure it's great for a soccer mom looking for added cargo space but Parent said it's good for the smuggler, too.
The face of smuggling has changed too. Just last October a 92-year-old woman flew from Brazil to Spain with nearly 10 pounds of cocaine strapped to her leg and torso.
Deptford Township Ptl. Adam Ziegler had taken apart a car before, but not in detail like was being performed in this course. He explained in some states, all it takes is for a K-9 dog to indicate drugs are in a vehicle and officers can conduct an extensive search.
However, in New Jersey, a search warrant must be obtained first.
Crooks are going beyond hiding their stash in glove boxes or underneath floor mats.
There's fake tubing that looks like regular wires in an engine compartment, but they're hollow, Ziegler said. They can stick up to 50 bags of cocaine in there. These guys are getting very creative.
Up and down the Interstate 295 corridor, West Deptford Township Ptl. Jeff Pallies said drug activity isn't uncommon.
It happens and it can happen quite frequently, Pallies said. The opportunities (to find narcotics) are there every shift, on the highway and off.
Finding hidden compartments and other places that drugs, or weapons or explosives for that matter, is just a matter of being patient.
With all the natural voids in the cars these days, there are different areas to look Ð places maybe I've missed before, Pallies said. Though now the next time I see it, I'll pick up on it. That's the whole idea of coming to these schools.
Academy Director Robin Blaker said officers from around the East Coast participate in the course at no cost to taxpayers through a federal grant. It comes at a time when local and state governments simply don't have the money to fund much-needed training.
To be able to bring in guys like this and to do it all for free, that just makes it a grand slam for us, Blaker said. We're going to be doing more.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010