Kent police's drugs detector so successful it will soon spread its wings

By Terrapinzflyer · Jan 22, 2010 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Kent police's drugs detector so successful it will soon spread its wings

    Have you had drugs in your hands? Thanks to a mobile scanner, police will know.

    Kent's cops have been using the ION Track machine to detect drugs on people’s hands as they enter pubs and clubs since 2008 -and such has been its success, it could be used in other forces across the country.

    Drugs detected by the machine include heroin, cocaine, ketamine and other Class A substances.

    Home Secretary Alan Johnson has recommended other forces to invest in the system after three members of the Home Affairs Select Committee saw it in use.

    The committee is looking at the cocaine trade in the UK and how police forces deal with recreational drug use.

    North Kent Drugs Liaison Officer PC Adrian Parsons reckons it’s well worth having: "We predominately look for Class A drugs on people’s hands and surfaces. Anywhere that drugs may be present then the machine will detect it, in minute particles.

    "The versatility of these is fantastic. You can literally walk into a pub or a night club and you can start testing people then and there without using mains or leads."

    There are four such devices in operation in the county.

    January 22 2010

    There is news video footage on the linked story- I don't have time to try and capture it. If anyone can grap it and upload it to the archives it would be appreciated.

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  1. bean.
    So police are just going to walk into a pub and ask everyone to put there hands out while they scan them? Even if it isn't quite as riduculous as that it's still a breach of privacy.

    Fair enough if some moron is out of his head causing trouble, by all means test him for drugs, why the hell should SWIM and SWIYs have there privacy breached for having remains of drugs on their hands or clothes.


    However i would be interested in how the machine works.
  2. chrisjames13
    What about the safety and invasion of personal privacy? Radar guns that cops point at drivers were even shown to lower sperm count in men according to a study that was talked about on National Television a while back.

    Do citizens really want the cops pointing all these crazy devices at them and running scans on their bodies. What if it turns out this thing can increase skin cancer or cause allergic reactions in certain individuals?

    This seems like a total invasion of privacy and could even prove harmful to certain individuals. The cops don't know. Most government studies are skewed so its not as if they are going to tell people these things could prove harmful to them.
  3. Phenoxide
    I'm no expert on this, but I believe the scanner is a portable ion trap mobility spectrometer. The scanner isn't something that is actually pointed at the testee. They'd swab a sample, presumably from the palm of the hand or inside the mouth then put it in the analyzer.

    All I can assume is that if it detects ion(s) with mobility similar to those seen for a drug then it triggers the positive. Without an attached mass spectrometer (I doubt there's a portable MS attached too!) I fail to see how they could get conclusive identification, and I'd be very surprised if there wasn't an embarassing false positive rate. This news article from the technology's early days would suggest as much, unless the welsh politicians were all lighting up:

    The technology behind ion mobility is still in its infancy. There's actually very few useful applications for it currently, and it's yet to fulfill the promise that it was believed to hold for analytical research fields. Seems a bit ass-backwards to be commercially distributing a portable version of a product that still isn't widely accepted as useful and robust on the research side. I think that 10-20 years down the line this could very well be a reality, but they're not there yet.

    By itself it certainly wouldn't hold up on a drug-related charge in court, but presumably they'd use a positive as a grounds for a search, arrest, and/or further drugs tests. I'd say it's fine for a nightclub door policy, but hardly robust enough to put people's liberty wrongly at risk.

    What a horrible application of physics, and what a horrible time to be alive. It also confirms my suspicion that nothing good has ever come out of Kent. :(
  4. adzket
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