E-diary eases data sharing in narcotics cases

CNB piloting device based on smartphone tech which lets officers access info on the go

Narcotics officers will soon be able to access and share their investigation records on the go with the aid of a new gadget.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) is piloting an electronic investigation diary, which records and organises investigation activities, videos, photographs and biometric data.

"This enables quick, easy and real-time sharing of data among investigation officers and their supervisors, greatly assisting (the officers) in their field investigations," said a CNB spokesman.

The CNB started its trial of the handheld device, which is based on smartphone technology, in April. It expects the trial to be completed soon.

The project is a collaboration between the bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs' office of the chief science and technology officer.

Other Home Team units may be involved in subsequent trials of the electronic diary, said the CNB spokesman. The device was recently nominated for the Home Team's Innovation of the Year Award.

Other high-tech gadgets in the CNB's arsenal include the TruNarc handheld narcotics detector, which can simultaneously pick up traces of multiple drugs from a given sample. The device uses a laser to identify drugs from the sample in a matter of seconds.

Last year, 64 people were arrested at checkpoints after urine tests showed they had been abusing drugs. That is a 36 per cent increase from 47 in 2013.

Since May 2013, the CNB has also been analysing hair samples from former drug abusers serving their compulsory two-year supervision order, which starts after their release from a drug rehabilitation centre or from prison.

Hair analysis can detect drugs in the body months after use, whereas the usual urine test is limited to a week after use.

Former offenders on the programme must maintain at least 4cm of hair, which cannot be cosmetically treated by colouring or perming, for instance.

Every third month, they have to provide hair samples when reporting to the CNB's supervision centre at Police Cantonment Complex, while urine tests are done monthly.

In the past, when only urine tests were used, they had to be done once or twice a week.

Hair samples also tell the CNB more than urine can. Depending on where drug traces are found along a strand of hair, analysts can determine consumption habits, such as if a person was a habitual or infrequent drug user, and roughly when the drug was used.

According to latest CNB statistics, 1,684 drug abusers - of which 37 per cent were new cases - were caught between January and June, an 8 per cent rise from the 1,560 nabbed in the first half of last year.

There were 3,085 drug abusers arrested in all of last year, 14 per cent fewer than the 3,581 in 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline 'E-diary eases data sharing in narcotics cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe