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Johnston County Uses High Tech Tools to Keep Schools Drug Free

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SMITHFIELD — TheJohnston CountySheriff's Department plans to use a machine called the Ionscan to detect drugs in the schools. It is so sensitive, it can tell if a person has shaken hands with someone who has handled drugs.

A member of theNational Guard's CounterDrug Task Force, who must remain anonymous due to his job, tested a random $1 bill to illustrate the sensitivity of the Ionscan.

"We'll put that in the system and see what it comes up with," he said.

The machine can detect even the smallest amount of drug residue. The Ionscan found traces of illegal drugs on the dollar bill.

"It has marijuana, cocaine, and opiates. A lot of money that's out in the world today has drug residue on it," the task force member said. "Simply because people who deal in drugs and money, contaminate that money."

Scientists have used the technology for years to identify chemicals. Law enforcement has discovered a new use for it.

"We actually just picked a locker at random and swabbed it with a swab, put it in the machine and it showed us the amount of residue off the locker, the handle of the locker," says Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell.

Bizzell plans to use the Ionscan in Johnston County schools. If the Ionscan detects drug residue on a locker, they will search it. If there are drugs inside, they will make an arrest.

"By setting the machine at a level that I think would be fair, we're going to be able to determine who gets charged and who doesn't get charged," Bizzell said.

The Ionscan is calibrated, so it can tell the difference between casual contact like a person would get from handling money, and direct contact from actually handling drugs.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Greg Clark, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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