New high-tech device to detect T&T contraband

(Trinidad Express) The Customs and Excise Division has stepped up its border security measures with the acquisition of a TT$500,000 hand-held device which can detect drugs and explosives the size of a rice grain.

In a matter of seconds the Multi-modeThreat Detector determines the contents of a package.

Speaking at a ceremony at Customs office on Independence Square, Port of Spain, yesterday where he officially handed over the device, Finance Minister Larry Howai noted that the new equipment has an error rate of one per cent.

He said the detector comes at a time when passengers have found clever ways of bringing illegal items into the country.

“Gone are the days when customs officers could simply eyeball arriving passengers to determine potential risks. Not only have passengers intent on nefarious deeds become highly adept at sneaking contraband in and out of our country, but the sheer numbers of people leaving and entering Trinidad and Tobago have made such simple profiling impractical,” he said.

He noted that in 2010 this country recorded 385,000 arrivals by air, in 2011 this rose to 431, 000 arrivals, then in 2012 it jumped to 454, 000. Last year, the Minister said, 434,000 persons arrived in the country by air.

Howai said bearing this in mind, improved methods must be found to protect Trinidad and Tobago’s borders.

“Our thriving energy and business sectors are attracting more and more persons to our shores. Trinidad and Tobago must therefore step up its border protection practices in commensurate fashion. We must utilise the technology now available to assist our Customs officers in executing their duties,” he said.

To test for explosives, the Multi-Mode Threat Detector swabs the surface of a bag or package and places the swab inside the explosives trace detection unit, which then analyses the content for the presence of potential explosive residue.

It can be used as a hand-held device if operated remotely via wifi ethernet.

Howai noted that 302 of these machines are deployed around the world and are making a “huge” difference in the global detection rate of narcotics and explosives as well as contraband.

Acting Comptroller of Customs Ammar Samaroo said although the new device will be stationed at the Piarco International Airport if a “suspicious transaction” is identified at another port of entry it will be transferred there.

He too said the detector has come at a good time.

“Customs and Excise sees this piece of equipment as critical and timely as we have seen the increase in illegal activity including the importation of illegal substances at our various ports of entry. It will significantly enhance our detection of illicit goods.”

The threat detector is made by UK company Smiths Detection Group. It was sourced through Arouca-based company Defence Installation Specialists Ltd, who are the local sole distributors of the device.

Government is expected to purchase as much as 12 more detectors in the future.



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