High-tech security items arrayed at COPEX show


David H. Stewart taps his finger on a machine that looks like a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a bank ATM and calls it a "mechanical dog." It can sniff out the slightest traces of cocaine and could have detected the explosives used in the World Trade Center bombing.

"All you have to do," he explains, "is place a filter in the nozzle and turn on the vacuum. If you're looking for drugs, you run it along the clothing, hands and the trouser pockets. Men are always putting their hands in their pockets."

The filter is then placed in a machine called an Ionscan and, if the suspect has had even casual contact with someone involved in illicit drugs, the equipment will in seconds identify the drug and provide a particle count.

Ionscan was part of an exhibit at the Baltimore Convention Center of the latest in high-technology equipment for use by police, the military and the security industry in their battles with terrorists, drug smugglers and other scoundrels.

For a price, there is sonar equipment on the market to detect scuba divers. There is a clear Armorcoat film to strengthen the glass in your car windows that the manufacturer says "will buy you a few more seconds to push your foot down on the accelerator and speed away" from a would-be carjacker.

These exhibits are part of a two-day international trade show concluding today called COPEX -- an acronym for covert and operational procurement exhibition. It's sponsored by Osprey Exhibitions Ltd., which has offices near London.

Officials of Barringer Instruments Inc., the New Providence, N.J., company that developed the Ionscan machine, said it was used in capturing the New York World Trade Center bombers, but they were not free to discuss the details.

"The judge in the case asked us to be mum about it," explained Vincent A. Memet, sales manager.

In fact, trade show officials apparently want to keep the whole thing quiet.

While attending the show, which is not open to the public, two invited guests -- a reporter and photographer -- were asked to leave and ushered to the door by Julian Winkley, who identified himself as the show owner.

"We just don't invite the media as a matter of policy," Mr. Winkley said repeatedly. The photographer was told that show promoters didn't want terrorists to know about the technology available to the law enforcement agencies.


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