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Snohomish cops’ new high tech tool in the fight against drugs

(Photo courtesy of Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)

Snohomish County deputies are getting a new tool to help with drug investigations. TruNarc is a sensor that can identify a drug through its packaging.

This is a tool the Snohomish County Drug Task force has used for a while, but now through a recent grant they’ve been able to buy more TruNarc units so deputies on the street can have their own, and eventually Everett police.

“With the fentynal threat that we have now seen increase throughout our community, and that threat also being to our officers who handle that type of material, we were able to purchase and provide TruNarc to both the sheriff’s office and eventually to Everett PD,” said Lieutenant Robert Goetz, a member of the task force.

The task force provided training on the new device for deputies this week.

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“Part of our responsibility as a task force is to make sure we do our best to train our line officers in the most effective and safe way to handle suspected illegal drugs,” Goetz said.

Here’s how TruNarc works: The device points a small laser at whatever substance the deputy has found. Every chemical compound will scatter that light in a slightly different pattern. The device then compares the pattern against 250 substances in its library.

Within seconds, a screen displays whether the substance is cocaine, meth, fentanyl, etc. It will even say if it is a legal substance, such as acetaminophen.

Not only does this save the department time and money, it also preserves the evidence which can be destroyed when sent to labs for testing. But the big win here is officer safety, because the laser light can test the substance through whatever packaging it is in, like a plastic baggie, without the cop having to open it.

“We don’t have to disturb that product,” Goetz said. “So with fentynal, for instance, there’s the possibility of it becoming airborne. When fentynal becomes airborne, that’s when there’s the highest risk for our officers; the inhalation of fentynal can be really dangerous.”

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Getting this tool to deputies and Everett cops couldn’t come at a better time with meth making a big comeback over the past couple years.

“What we have seen as well is the increase of fentynal seizures, and the slight decrease in heroin seizures,” he said. “We suspect in the next couple of years we might even see a further decrease in the amount of heroin we see, and a further increase in the amount of fentynal we see.”

Goetz is not talking about medical grade, regulated fentanyl. Rather, this is synthetic fentanyl that comes in from China and Mexico. It is far more dangerous than the regulated variety. It comes to the street in a variety of forms, including fake pharmaceutical pills known as M30s or Perc30s that look exactly like a real opioid prescription from a pharmacy.

Goetz says you never know what you’re getting.

“Imagine making chocolate chip cookies,” he said. “When you put a drop of dough onto your cookie sheet, some of those cookies are going to have 10 or 12 chocolate chips, and some are going to have three of four chocolate chips. That’s kind of what it’s like with unregulated manufacturers of M30 pills.”

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