If you have ever crossed the United States border heading into Mexico or Canada, you have likely seen a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent walking between the vehicles with a contraband detection dog. The K-9 and handler are the first line of narcotics detection and they do a great job of detecting not only narcotics like Crystal Meth, Heroin, Cocaine, Ecstacy and Marijuana, but can also be trained to sniff out alcoholic beverages and firearms or fireworks. However, if a canine isn’t available, what is an agency to do?
Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Company (CSECO) has been manufacturing contraband detection equipment since the mid 1980s. While it is not a replacement for a K-9 unit or their handlers, CSECO’s contraband detectors are a great complement to them or can achieve similar results of locating hidden contraband if a K-9 unit is not available.
The first contraband detector manufactured by CSECO was the Buster K910B density meter. The technology was designed with the end user in mind. In fact, a number of CBP agents worked closely with CSECO founder Patrick J. Campbell to design the perfect tool that would quickly alert agents to anomalies which could indicate the presence of illegal drugs or other contraband. The Buster uses back-scatter technology to detect possible these anomalies.
Low-intensity gamma radiation, which is safe for humans and canines to be around, measures the density of an object it scans. If there is a discrepancy, the reading going too high or dipping too low, it indicates an abnormality. If there is an abnormality, quite often there is contraband. When a discrepancy is found, the Buster sounds an audible alert and/or displays an alert on a hand-held display.
The vehicle in question would then be sent to a secondary inspection. At this time, an agent will do an in-depth scan with the Buster K910, but may also use the CSECO FV Series Fiberscope which allows them to inspect parts of the vehicle that normally couldn’t be accessed without taking the car apart. For instance, the Fiberscope, with its 16,000 fiber optic strands that are wrapped in tungsten to protect them from diesel fuel and gasoline, can be snaked into the fuel tank. If there is anything but fuel in the tank (this is a favorite location to try to smuggle drugs or cash), the Fiberscope will see the packages. The fuel tank will be drained and the tank removed to reach the packages it contained.
Sometimes would-be smugglers remove the display panels of a vehicle and hide contraband behind them or in the empty recesses of a dashboard. The Fiberscope can also help agents and officers see inside these areas because of the two-way articulation and high-intensity lights. The Fiberscope includes an ocular unit which allows the agent to see what is hidden but also has an optional video display so others can see and record the inspection.
Will a CSECO Buster K910B or FV Series Fiberscope, both great technology for narcotics or contraband detection, replace a K9 unit and its handler along the US borders? No, they will not and CSECO would never assume that they should. However, CSECO equipment is a complement to these hard working units. And, if someone doesn’t have a K-9 available, this equipment is an awesome choice to keep fighting to keep drugs off the streets.