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Concealed No More

Since the beginning of time criminals have always tried to conceal contraband.  Concealment can be as simple as a pocket, center console, or under the seat.  Concealment can be as sophisticated as a submarine, tire jack, or hidden in a trailer with sixty head of cattle.  The trick for those involved in interdiction is to be able to locate these concealments.  They can be used for a variety of reasons: money, illegal drugs, weapons, or even human lives.

From my perspective it seems that concealments and traps are becoming more of the norm than the unusual exception.   With increased interdiction patrols and more frequent use of canines, these concealment methods are being found and reported. 

I recently received an email from a law enforcement agency in Louisiana who had found a device, an Actron Code Rader, from inside a vehicle.  They advised that this device had been seen in a few stops and was curious as to its nature.  The device is orange in color and is used to intercept the signal to the computer of most new cars when a hidden compartment is contained within it.  When you cut or splice into the wiring of a newer vehicle the check engine light will automatically illuminate.  This device allows the driver or occupants to reset the check engine light every few hours.  The danger posed here to a law enforcement official is very serious.  The possession and use of this code reader in a vehicle will probably mean that you are dealing with someone possessing a large amount of cash and/or narcotics.  The other hidden danger here would be the trap being easily accessible to the driver or occupants and the potential for a weapon to be hidden inside the trap.

I have also received information from an agency in Alabama who recently discovered a hidden transponder.  The transponder was a GPS tracking device and was found buried inside the console of a vehicle.  This type of GPS tracking system is so sophisticated that it would allow the real-time tracking of the suspected drug runner by the drug cartel or organization in which that person is working for.  Again, this possesses a unique danger to law enforcement officials.  This would allow real-time tracking on a smart phone application to the exact location where a vehicle may be stopped on traffic and the person monitoring the vehicle from a distance may be close.  If you do encounter such devices be mindful of other suspicious vehicles that may be in and around the area where you have this vehicle stopped. 

A law enforcement agency in Texas had recently encountered a white utility truck.  In the bed of this truck was a large quantity of marijuana.  As officers controlled the situation they noticed that in the bed were two strategically placed knives.  Had the officer had the suspects at the bed of this truck it could have meant a life or death scenario.      

There are manufacturers that are making motorcycle floorboards.  These floorboards contain false compartments that would allow for the concealment of firearms or contraband.  These items are being sold on the internet. 

Aside from the ‘usual’ concealment methods, drug smugglers find some very interesting areas in which to conceal their loads.  Some of those recently found were, 35 pounds cocaine hidden inside a truck transmission; US Currency, $320,000, found hidden inside the dash of a mini-van;  a large quantity of methamphetamine found hidden inside a pneumatic nail gun; 9-pounds of methamphetamine was found inside the wheel well of a Volkswagen.

Drug smugglers will always find a way to transport their loads.  It’s our job to try and locate them as safely and quickly as possible.  We need to recognize the hidden dangers of someone who may be smuggling drugs in a hidden compartment of a vehicle.  When you encounter what you may believe is someone drug smuggling, step back.  Evaluate your position.  Call for back-up.  Never deal with this type of person alone.  When it is safe to do so, methodically search the vehicle.  Time is on your side.  Check with your local prosecutors as to the exact procedures you should follow.  Remember, no amount of contraband is worth risking officer safety or your life for.


About The Author:

Chris Watkins started his law enforcement career as a police officer in our Nation’s Capital before moving his family west. In DC he worked with the Major Narcotics Unit as well as performing undercover assignments in the Street Robbery Unit. In his new location he was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit with the majority of his duties encompassing narcotics investigations and doing more undercover work. Currently he’s assigned as a K-9 handler for his agency. He’s an active member of the American Police Canine Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Free and Accepted Masons, and the Kentucky Narcotic Officers Association.