Derrick Welsh

City of St. Marys Police Department Patrolman and member of the Elk County Drug Task Force Derrick Welsh.

ST. MARYS — City of St. Marys Police Department Patrolman Derrick Welsh and Detective Gregg McManus, both of the Elk County Drug Task Force, have been working on securing funding for the TruNarc drug detector device.

This device would be housed at the COSMPD, Welsh said, but available to the task force and any law enforcement agency in need of it.

“The TruNarc is a great device that can provide quick and accurate results, letting the user ‘scan’ the substance through bags, limiting officer exposure,” Welsh said.

Welsh said the $25,000 thermo-scientific device is able to deliver “extremely accurate positive result within seconds.”

The current technology the officers use has been around since the ‘40s or ‘50s, Welsh said, and can lead to many false positives. The officers are essentially reading and understanding colors and a flow chart, which can lead to cutting corners.

The TruNarc device leaves no room for mistakes, Welsh said, and will aid in the department not wasting so many resources.

The idea to raise the funds for this device, Welsh said, arose since officers would find substances on the scene of overdoses and become exposed, not knowing what the substance was. Crime labs can take three to four months to identify it.

“Had we known what the substances were, the outcome could have been different,” Welsh said.

Different countries are always “manipulating” drugs to get around U.S. laws, Welsh says, so experimental drugs are always a concern.

TruNarc has free updates for the life of the device, Welsh said, to develop along with the ever-changing substances. It can also identify “precursors” — substances used to make another substance, such as cocaine-cutting agents.

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Welsh said officers don’t field test anything that looks like heroin, since they can be exposed to transdermal substances. They are currently coming across a lot of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, and have become familiar with packaging tactics like stamp bags with symbols that relate back to certain drug dealers.

The TruNarc device will be available for surrounding departments such as Ridgway, Johnsonburg, Emporium and others that request it, Welsh noted.

The COSMPD also has a program it uses to “dump” cell phones, which it also shares, he said.

“It’s here to benefit everyone,” he said.

Also included in the grant for the TruNarc are 10-15 training spots for officers from surrounding areas, Welsh said, adding that grants are “essential” for rural police departments.

Acquiring the TruNarc device is just another way of the COSMPD and Elk County Drug Task Force giving back to the community and cleaning up the drug problem, Welsh said. It’s important to “keep pressing” the drug problem, since those issues can spiral into many other crimes.

“We have been fortunate with the community support that we have,” he said. “We try to put that back into the community.”

Welsh noted Elk County has a great, hardworking task force, with several wiretap certified officers and many whom are experienced in the field.

They are about halfway when it comes to raising enough funds for the TruNarc through donations and grants, Welsh said.

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