The Impact of Portable NIR Devices in Forensic Drug Analysis

03. May 2024

Facing the problem of backlogs in forensic laboratories, the field of illicit drugs analyses has recently seen the development of different types of portable devices. Their main purpose is to be used directly by the police in order to reduce the number of specimens that are sent to the laboratories. Several portable devices have shown promising results. To avoid misuses, the added value of these devices should be explored, in order to establish “good practices” and keep the communication channels open between the police and the laboratories.

Adapting sampling procedures around the use of portable devices allows for real-time qualitative and quantitative data. Forensic scientists can therefore rapidly assess whether every specimen in a seizure contain illicit drugs and if the seizure is composed of specimens showing different composition. Based on these information, forensic scientists can proceed to an intelligence-led sampling and prioritise specimens that would require further analyses. Additionally, the availability of more analysis data can strengthen the confidence in the reporting of the sampling process and the analyses results.

Operational Advantages of Portable NIR Devices

The use of portable NIR devices offers numerous advantages in the field. By conducting immediate analyses at the seizure site, police can quickly determine the nature and composition of seized substances, facilitating faster and more informed decision-making. Therefore, this rapid assessment capability is crucial in high-stakes environments where time and accuracy are paramount.

Case Study: Geneva Cantonal Police Force

Various scenarios have been tested in an operational context at the Geneva Cantonal Police Force using an ultraportable NIR device. The focus was oriented on sampling issues and the intelligence produced. Results indicate a great potential to detect the different classes within a seizure and therefore to ensure a representative sampling for further analyses. The introduction of portable NIR technology has revolutionized how seizures are handled, providing frontline officers with powerful tools for immediate drug analysis.

Conclusion: Enhancing Forensic Efficiency with NIR Technology

The integration of portable NIR devices in drug analysis marks a significant advancement in forensic science. With the ability to quickly assess and classify drug specimens on the field, law enforcement agencies are better equipped to handle the complexities of drug-related crimes efficiently. This not only alleviates the pressure on forensic laboratories but also enhances the overall effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Access the Full Academic Paper

For those interested in a deeper dive into the methodologies, results, and implications of this research, the full academic paper is available below or read the full study here.1

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  1. Wermelinger, M., Coppey, F., Gasté, L., & Esseiva, P. (2023). Exploring the added value of portable devices such as near infrared spectrometer in the field of illicit drugs analyses. Forensic Science International, 348, 111605. ↩︎

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