Not many people realize that there is a United States Postal Service facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York that acts as the nation’s first line of defense against dangerous drugs. When one thinks of which safety and security agencies are helping to stop the trafficking of meth, heroin, opioids, fentanyl, and other narcotics that are impacting communities worldwide, the postal service does not usually come to mind.
But a recent article in Capital News Service reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at that New York mail facility were using spectroscopy devices — along with dogs trained to detect narcotics — as their latest weapon in stopping illegal drugs from getting into the country.
In that location alone, about a million international packages are received each day and screened for illicit items. According to the article, packages are put through an x-ray scan and suspicious packages are placed to the side and opened. If any powders are found, officers are able to use a spectroscopy device that utilizes both FTIR and Raman technology to identify the unknown substance, without the officer having to touch the powder itself.
Raman and FTIR are highly specific and reliable identification methods, each with strengths and limitations. By integrating both into a single analyzer, operators harness the power of each technology while enabling a broader range of chemical identification. The article reported that using dogs and technology has helped the customs inspectors to seize approximately 82 pounds of fentanyl from incoming international shipments during the first half of the year.
If you watch crime shows, you might think 82 pounds of a drug found within millions of packages is not much of a find; most shows boast about hundreds or even thousands of kilos of drugs being seized at a time. However, a Boston newspaper quoted a law enforcement source as saying 33-plus pounds of fentanyl (that was recently captured in a real-life bust) is enough to kill more than 7 million people in its raw form.
In addition, the data gathered by the spectroscopy device has helped investigators link other related packages and track them back to the senders. The instruments give security personnel the analysis facts they need to turn shipping data from one parcel that contains fentanyl or other illicit drugs into information about possibly thousands of other packages. And since the results are seen on the spot as well as can be input into the instrument’s library for future analyses, delays are avoided and any tipping off of shippers that could result in ruined investigations is squashed.
It seems that those who are trying to get fentanyl and other dangerous drugs onto American streets are getting more clever each day. The article mentioned that drugs, including fentanyl, have been hidden inside kids’ toys, suitcase wheels, different types of parcels, and in one case, vials of steroids were stuffed into a glass bottle of lotion.
Luckily, there are programs in place to help keep these dangerous packages off the streets … and many times the first step is not delivering the mail.
Read the article: People, machines and dogs hunt for drugs in the mail