Many excellent detection devices exist. But potential purchasers of new technology are wise to beware of something that seems too good to be true. This is especially true of explosives and narcotics detectors. In 1993, the Quadro Corporation of Hadleyville, S.C., sold the Quadro Tracker Positive Molecular Locator to around 1,000 police departments and school districts in the United States at prices ranging from $400 to $8,000.
Users placed a sample of the substance to be detected into a “locator card,” which was then inserted into a “card reader” attached to the device, which had a swiveling antenna. By moving the antenna, the operator was led to the target substance. The more advanced, expensive models were said to be able to find almost anything-weapons, narcotics (ingested and otherwise), golf balls, missing children, jewelry-using only a Polaroid photo of the substance or item to be found.
However, when the FBI examined the device, it found the device was essentially hollow, the components were not electrically connected to one another, and the antenna came from a transistor radio. The whole mechanism was essentially a high-priced dowsing rod.
Operating on the “if it worked once…” strategy, several other vendors have produced similar worthless devices for explosive detection, called variously Alpha 6, GT200, Sniffex, and ADE-651. The latter device was sold to the Iraqi government as a bomb detector as recently as last year. After some disappointing and literally shattering experiences, in January 2010 the British government banned the device for export and arrested the company director for fraud.
Inexpensive high-technology explosive detection solutions are still elusive. Unless you have a large budget, your best measures for now may be specially trained dogs, conventional hazardous device procedures, and if all else fails, blow the thing up.
Tim Dees is a retired police officer and the former editor of two major law enforcement Websites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”