Home / Security / Rise of Narco-Terrorism require new Contraband detector technologies

Rise of Narco-Terrorism require new Contraband detector technologies

Narco-terrorism is a term that explains drug trafficking cartels/organized crime groups which resort to terrorism to achieve their aims. These terrorist organizations engage in drug trafficking activity to fund their operations and gain recruits and expertise. Such organizations include FARC, ELN, AUC in Colombia, PCP-SL in Peru, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban.


A 2013 Congressional Research Service report noted that in 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that 14 of 36 (39%) of the groups designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations “were involved ‘to some degree’ in illicit narcotics activity” while in fiscal year 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that 29 of the top 63 international drug syndicates, identified as such on the consolidated priority organization target (CPOT) list, were associated with terrorists.


Drug cartel is an illicit consortium of independent organizations formed to limit competition and control the production and distribution of illegal drugs. Drug cartels are extremely well-organized, well-financed, efficient, and ruthless. Since the 1980s, they have dominated the international narcotics trade. It is therefore of paramount importance to apprehend narco-terror kingpins, if we want to curb terrorism, and narco-trafficking.


On 9 December 1994, the General Assembly of the United Nations issued a Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism wherein it expressed, inter alia, its concern “at the growing and dangerous links between terrorist groups and drug traffickers and their paramilitary gangs, which have resorted to all types of violence, thus endangering the constitutional order of states and violating basic human rights.” Since then, much stronger and broader statements have been made, especially in Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) wherein the Council “Notes with concern the close connection between international terrorism and transnational organized crime, illicit drugs, money-laundering, illegal arms-trafficking, and illegal movement of nuclear, chemical, biological and other potentially deadly materials…”


Areas or countries that have active or historical narcoterrorism or narco-war include:

Afghanistan, to fund operations with sales of opium and heroin in the Afghanistan War. The DEA claimed that Afghanistan under Taliban rule was a preeminent example of a state funded by the illicit production of opium.

Brazil, has several organized and trained groups that dominate territories, carry out offensives against state and federal security forces, control the clandestine market for drugs, weapons and ammunition and apply violence through psychological, communal and indiscriminate terrorism against the civilian population.

Colombia which have influential right-wing paramilitary “narco-terrorists”, Clan del Golfo, Los Rastrojos, The Black Eagles and left-wing revolutionary guerrillas Popular Liberation Army.

Lebanon – Hezbollah is said to derive its income from drug trafficking operations in both the Middle East and Latin America.

Mexico, drug cartels and gangs Sinaloa Cartel – Gente Nueva, Los Zetas, Jalisco New Generation Cartel, La Línea (gang), La Resistencia (gang), Los Mexicles, Los Pelones, Artistas Asesinos, Barrio Azteca

In the past few years there has been a phenomenal increase in the amount of narcotics trafficked and consumed in India. What was earlier a largely metropolitan habit, is fast catching up in tier two cities of India. In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) a pre-existing chronic issue of drug abuse has now acquired epidemic proportions, with growing use of heroin. Heroin usage and trafficking has serious ramifications for terrorism in J&K. Till now, this pattern was isolated to parts of the north east and Punjab. Recent encounters and searches by security forces in J&K exposed large consignments of narcotics with militants.


Narco-terrorism is not a new phenomena. It is a known fact that Pakistani elements have always provided separatists with funding acquired from narcotics trade. A portion of the drugs coming from Pakistan is sold in Kashmir, and the rest is transported into other parts of India.


Vehicles coming into the country are a favorite hiding place for smugglers to stash narcotics and transport them across borders. They would hide narcotics inside the compartments of a van, inside spare tires, within the space of the side panels, in the cushions of a vehicle seat, and even wrapped carefully and placed inside gas tanks.


Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (the “Kingpin Act”) (21 U.S.C. 1901-1908, 8 U.S.C. 1182). Kingpin Act targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives. Its purpose is to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives’ access to the US financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals. The Kingpin Act authorizes the President to take these actions when he determines that a foreign person plays a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.



As the opioid epidemic spreads throughout the U.S., the safety of law enforcement officers and lab technicians dealing with drug samples has become a major concern. Fentanyl is extremely potent—50–100 times as potent as morphine and 30–50 times as potent as heroin. A dose as small as 2–3 mg can be fatal.


The synthetic opioid is so dangerous, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has advised law enforcement agencies to send suspected drug samples straight to the lab for testing instead of using routine drug test kits on the scene. But the flood of samples can overwhelm crime labs. To help relieve that burden and prevent accidental exposure to deadly opioids on the streets or in the lab, scientists have developed rapid techniques that can safely identify dangerous compounds without having to open pouches or containers.


Narcotics detection equipment is used daily around the country to locate illegal narcotics and keep them off the streets of towns and cities across the country. To define narcotics, they are types drugs that are derived from opium, whether they natural or synthetically produced. A few examples of narcotic drugs include morphine, codeine, and heroin aside from opium drug itself. Narcotics are useful for medicinal reasons but like any other substance, they are also abused as a recreational drug.


Contraband detector systems are widely used to ensure security and safety at transit facilities, public places, hospitals, government organizations, banks, commercial buildings, educational institutions, critical infrastructure, etc.; however, they have a high cost of ownership. Many of the aforementioned places require costly explosive detectors for which the operational cost is equally high. For instance, full-body X-ray scanners require a huge initial investment. Also, the maintenance cost of several explosive detectors is comparatively high. All these factors may result in a reluctance to deploy security measures at facilities.


Before the opioid crisis, law enforcement officers who came across suspected drugs commonly conducted a field test using “wet chem kits.” The small kits usually consist of a plastic envelope containing sealed ampules of various reagents. The officer has to scoop up a small drug sample—about “a pinch,” Glynn says—with the enclosed spatula and transfer the substance to the envelope.

After sealing the envelope, the officer squeezes and pops open the ampules in the designated order, mixes the reagents with the sample, and watches for a color change: purple for heroin, orange to brown for amphetamines, blue for cocaine, for example. Each drug class has a separate kit; if one test is negative, the officer has to use an additional pinch of sample to check for a different drug.

Not only are the kits subjective and easy to misinterpret, but the act of taking a sample now puts officers at risk for accidental exposure.

So chemical instrument companies have been updating and adapting handheld Raman spectrometers, initially designed to identify explosives for hazmat teams and bomb squads, to identify illicit drugs. The devices collect spectra produced when laser light scatters from molecules in the sample, and they match the spectra to those in a built-in library for various drugs, analogs, drug precursors, and cutting agents.

Person-Borne Detection

The person-borne detection category seeks to identify technologies that are capable of detecting contraband concealed either on a person or within body cavities. Products that fall under this category primarily include handheld detectors (including handheld cell phone detectors), and walkthrough detectors.

Handheld detectors are highly portable detection units that can provide a low-cost and effective means of screening individuals directly. For example, handheld cell phone detectors are devices that detect either the internal components of a cell phone (e.g., FMD), or the operating radio frequency from a cell phone (e.g., RFD).

Walkthrough detectors, as seen in a variety of public places, utilize different technology to detect contraband. These types of technology include transmission x-ray, metal detection, backscatter x-ray, millimeter wave (MMW), and thermal imaging.


An evaluation of handheld cell phone detection devices was developed by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center’s (NLECTC) Corrections Technology Center of Excellence (CX CoE) (Shaffer and Russo, 2015)

The study focused on
strengths and limitations of each product. Features of interest included:
 Ability to detect phones in Off state
 Ability to detect phones in On/Active state
 Percent accuracy of detecting Off phones
 Detection range (Phones On/Active)
 Directional accuracy (Phones On/Active)

Between the four products, three different detection technologies were used: Radio Frequency Detection (RFD), Ferromagnetic Detection (FMD), and Non-Linear Junction Detection (NLJD). Though the RFD and FMD devices could detect cell phones that were powered Off, they were subject to false alarms, required the operator to be within 0-8 inches of the target cell phone, and provided very little directional indication to the operator. Alternatively, the RFD devices could only detect cell phones that were turned On. When the phones were in the On/Active state (i.e.,
actively engaging in a phone call), the RFD devices provided excellent detection and directional indicators. However, when in the On/Passive (standby) state, the RFD devices provided detection but no directional indication.

Vehicle-Borne Detection

The vehicle-borne detection category seeks to identify technologies that are capable of detecting contraband concealed in vehicles (passenger cars, delivery trucks, etc.) entering and leaving correctional facilities. Vehicle detection systems typically include handheld and drive through devices. When comparing detectors, it is important to keep in mind the level of search required. For example, is a detailed visual inspection adequate, or is a search for hollow compartments necessary? Camera systems are faster than a person doing a visual search, but they cannot see through walls and tires.

Drive-through vehicle-screening systems range from flexible mobile systems to fixed systems that can integrate into existing architecture. These detectors have high throughput rates allowing minimal impact to traffic flow. The size of detectors varies depending on the types and sizes of the vehicles they are rated to screen. This market survey includes products making use of technologies including radio frequency continuous wave detectors, backscatter x-ray systems, camera systems, and density measurements systems.

Handheld vehicle-screening detection devices are cost-effective but are often highly specialized for screening specific parts of a vehicle (gas tanks, tires, chassis, etc.) versus the entire vehicle. Often handheld devices are used in addition to drive-through screening systems.

Environmental Detection

The environmental detection category seeks to identify technologies that are capable of detecting contraband concealed in the environment (walls, furniture, etc.). Environmental detectors vary significantly in both intended purpose and platform (e.g., handheld scanners). The types of contraband detected from these systems ranges from drugs and cutting agents, to cellular devices, chemicals, and metallic objects. Unfortunately, there is no universal system that can detect all types of contraband; instead, these systems tend to be very specific, useful only for
particular situations. This report covers three types of environmental contraband detection systems: mail and package screeners, surroundings screeners, and cellular phone detectors.

Mail screeners scan such mail as letters and other envelopes for illicit substances and tend to be small enough to fit on a desk. These contraband detectors are sensitive enough to find traces of a substance between the layers of paper in a business card or beneath a sticker. Package screeners are larger systems that take up more space and typically only search for metal. These detectors can screen larger items such as pallets, and can also be used to search trash and laundry bins for smuggled items.

Surroundings screeners vary significantly in capabilities and purposes. Handheld metal detectors that can be used underwater fall in this category, as well as detectors that screen for bomb making components. In order to be effective in searching surrounding areas, these detectors must be somewhat portable so that they can scan large areas such as fence perimeters.



Contraband Detector Market

The global contraband detector market is expected to grow from USD 3.9 billion in 2021 to USD 5.6 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 7.5%. Increasing security concerns due rise in a terrorist attack is the primary factor driving the market growth. Moreover, growing adoption of contraband detection technology in transportation and retail applications will drive the demand for this technology in the near future.


The growing concerns in security essentials due to rising terrorist activities and rapid urbanization is one of the major factors increasing the demand for contraband detector. With the rise in terrorist incidents, governments worldwide are forced to use advanced contraband detector systems, which is boosting the contraband detector market growth. Similarly, the demand for contraband detector systems is increasing worldwide due to the growing concerns for security and safety because of illegal immigration.


Increasing threats at critical places such as airports, borders, and government facilities have led to the high adoption of security measures. Over the past couple of decades, the number of passengers at airports is increasing. Due to the ease in trading policies, transportation and cargo services across the world are increasingly being adopted, thereby fostering the use of screening technologies at critical places.


Full-body scanners are used to ensure the complete safety of travelers at airports by generating a computerized stripped image of the passengers boarding flights. This guarantees that none of the passengers are carrying any dangerous materials to avoid the act of terrorism. Exposure to high levels of X-rays can increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. European countries have banned X-ray scanners at airports since a few cancer cases have resulted from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year. The impact of this factor is high and an alternate solution must be made to maintain security at airports.


The contraband detector market for x-ray imaging technology is expected to witness the highest market share during the forecast period. X-ray screening technologies such as backscatter and computed tomography (CT) are largely used at various critical places worldwide. With technological advancements various technologies of x-ray imaging including backscatter technology, energy transmission and computed tomography (CT) its adoption in transportation, retail and government applications is increased. This has led the x-ray imaging technology market to have significantly the highest market share during the forecast period.


Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Company (CSECO)  contraband detection equipment

Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Company (CSECO) has been manufacturing contraband detection equipment since that meeting in the 1980s. The company’s first and most famous product is the Buster K910B Density Meter aka Buster. They also have the newest product, the Perfect Vision v20 Series Videoscope Inspection System which performs so much better than other fiberscopes and videoscopes available.


The Buster doesn’t use the same technology such as microwave, radiowave, millimeter wave, or ultraviolet wave like many detectors on the market use. Instead, the Buster uses a low-intensity gamma radiation along with a scintillation detector which enables it to “read” through nearly any material — wood, rubber, reinforced plastic, metal — you name it. Police officers and law enforcement agents can scan through various surfaces without destroying or dismantling them. The low-intensity gamma radiation is also safe around people and dogs from K9 units.

This very technology allows the Buster to scan surfaces with speed. It can scan average-sized vehicles in around than five minutes. An average-sized room would be scanned in less than 10 minutes. The Buster has a clear display that is easily readable. It’s accompanied by an audio signal whenever a remarkable or abnormal discrepancy in density is noted through scanning.


The market for transportation application is expected to have significantly the largest market share during the forecast period. This can be attributed to the consistent demand for contraband detector systems in transit locations such as airports, seaports, railway stations and others. These locations have a major threat of illicit material transit. This has led to increased demand for contraband detectors in transportation application.  Also, there has been an increasing adoption of temperature sensing and touchless contraband detectors in such transit locations due Covid pandemic. Touchless technological innovations are seen to be adopted more due to hygiene essentials. Such developments are expected to drive the market for transportation application during the forecast period.


The contraband detector market is dominated by players such as Leidos ( US), OSI Systems, Inc. (US), Smiths Group (UK), Nuctech Company Limited (China), Metrasens( UK), ADANI (US), Costruzioni Elettroniche Industriali Automatismi C.E.I.A. Spa (Italy), Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. (US), Godrej Security Solutions (India), Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Company (US), Garrett Metal Detectors. (US), PKI Electronic Intelligence Gmbh (Germany), Vidisco Ltd. (Israel), Global Security Solutions, Inc. (Canada), Astrophysics, Inc. (US), Autoclear LLC (US), Gilardoni S.P.A. (Italy), Aventura Technologies, Inc. (US), and Ranger Security Detectors (US) are the key players in the contraband detector market

Smiths Group(UK), OSI Systems (US), Leidos(US), Nuctech(China) and Metrasens(UK).





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