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Drug "Detection" Device Marketed to Schools; Secret Technology Creates Skepticism


February 1996

Three Missouri schools will soon be using a new drug detection device that some critics are calling a modern-day "divining rod" (Donna McGuire and Richard Espinoza, "Drug Detector or High-Tech Hoax?" Kansas City Star, December 18, 1995, p. A-1).

Quadro Tracker is a small, 3.5-ounce, black box with an antenna. It comes with a number of "insertion cards" that its developers say will detect marijuana, gunpowder, and cocaine. Quadro Corporation Vice President Malcolm Roe, who is an electrical engineer, said the Quadro Tracker works by sensing the unique wavelengths produced by the molecules in controlled substances or gunpowder. Because it supposedly works through magnetism, it needs no batteries. The unit's technology has not been patented because the company does not want to reveal how the drug detection cards work.

Three schools in Johnson County, Missouri have purchased the Trackers at $955 each. "If it does what they say it will do, then it's going to be a tremendous asset not only to school districts, but to law enforcement," said B.J. Hodges, the director of safety and security at Shawnee Mission School District.

Quadro Corporation's Roe says the Tracker can find controlled substances behind brick walls and from a half-block away. It can even alert to places where marijuana was smoked. Extra cards for other controlled substances can be purchased for $250 each.

Others are skeptical of the drug-finding device. "My cousin, who is a magician, appears to saw women in half," said Michael Kruger, a physics professor at the University of Missouri. "And I have no idea how he does that."

Florida magician James Randi is so sure that the Tracker is a hoax that he is offering $507,000 to anyone who can pass a double-blind test of the device. "This is essentially just a bent coathanger like all the other divining rods," he said.

He conducted a test with Missouri Seminole County School District Director of Security Wolfgang Halbig, who was considering buying one of the units. With a known sample of marijuana, Randi asked Halbig to find the card for marijuana from a number of unidentified cards. In a series of tests, Halbig did not get one correct.

Tests and demonstrations in three other school systems, however, convinced administrators to buy the units. They are still drawing up guidelines about how to deal with searches of students' lockers, cars, and belongings that the Tracker "hits."

Quadro Corporation, based in Harleyville, South Carolina, is now marketing the Tracker throughout the United States and in 23 countries.

[For more information about the Quadro Tracker, contact the Quadro Corporation at P.O. Box 98, Harleyville, SC 29448, 803-462-2027. Quadro says it will not discuss any matters over the phone, but can send information through the mail if requested.]