Police to trial new handheld device that instantly detects cocaine, meth and MDMA

Source: 1News

A new drug screening service allowing frontline officers to carry out real-time testing of three commonly-found drugs using a handheld device is set to be trialled by police.

Drug testing service Lumi Drug Scan.

The Lumi Drug Scan service, which allows officers to test for the most common drugs on the streets and receive almost instantaneous results sent to their mobile phones, was developed by forensic scientists at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) in collaboration with police.

The drug screening service can test for three drugs commonly found on New Zealand's streets: methamphetamine, MDMA and cocaine.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Investigations Mike Johnson said police need to look for new ways to "improve the tools available to frontline staff" as drug-testing processes continue to have limitations and technology continues to improve.

He noted that the current drug field testing kits used by officers have "some disadvantages", and while other testing machines are available they are "extremely costly and lack portability".

Mr Johnson added that unlike the current field testing kit, the device can also screen through packaging. 

"Our officers will not have to open the bags of drugs they seize to test them and won't be at risk of being exposed to the substances inside the package," he said.

ESR Forensic Research and Development project manager Dion Sheppard said the screening service "utilises machine learning models" developed using the institute's "extensive knowledge of illicit drug analysis covering the range of drug samples seen in New Zealand".

The results from the Lumi Drug Screen service will not be evidential, however, and drugs screened by the device will still need to be sent to the ESR for a full chemical analysis if required for court.

Several devices will be trialled for six months across the Auckland, Canterbury and Central Districts, Mr Johnson said.