Eleven drug task force agencies across Kentucky are using a new hand-held device that gives them the ability to analyze drugs in the field before sending them to a lab.
The TruNarc device uses laser technology to identify a wide range of drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, which can be harmful or even deadly, if absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
Tod Young is deputy director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Task Force. He said TruNarc uses a process known as Raman spectroscopy to analyze illegal drugs without having to open a packet.
“The laser provides us with a spectrum of the molecules of the substance that we’re looking at," said Young. "Inside the device, the computer compares the spectrum or fingerprint of what we’re looking at to a known library of substances.”
That can save officers’ lives, especially in situations where they might be exposed to the potent opioid fentanyl, which can be harmful or even fatal when absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
“Most of the time if you can get it into a clear plastic baggie, or something like that which we encounter quite often, we can get a presumptive test without having to risk exposure,” said Young.
In addition to the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force, agencies that recently received a TruNarc device and training are Barren County Drug Task Force; FIVCO Area Drug Enforcement Task Force; Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force; Lake Cumberland Area Drug Task Force; Lexington Police Department Narcotics Unit; Louisvile Metro Police Department Narcotics Unit; Northern Kntucky Drug Strike Force; Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force; and South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force.
The TruNarc device costs more than $20,000. It's currently being used mostly by drug task force agencies because they generally do field testing of substances before sending them to the lab. Patrol officers usually send drugs to a lab to be analyzed.
Kentucky State Police Central Forensic Laboratory Supervisor Jeremy Triplett said the TruNarc represents a dramatic improvement in technlogy for presumptive roadside testing of possible drugs.