Chinese Law Enforcement Alchemists Turn Shit To Drug Bust Gold
from the put-on-your-waders,-boys dept
Dozens of cities across China are applying an unusual forensic technique to monitor illegal drug use: chemically analysing sewage for traces of drugs, or their telltale metabolites, excreted in urine.
One southern city, Zhongshan, a drug hotspot, is also monitoring waste water to evaluate the effectiveness of its drug-reduction programmes, says Li Xiqing, an environmental chemist at Peking University in Beijing who is working with police in these cities.
Li says Zhongshan police have already used the technique to help track down and arrest a drug manufacturer. He says a handful of cities are planning to use data from waste water to set targets for police arrests of drug users, some as early as next year.
That’s exactly the sort of statement one would expect to be made in the wake of “do what now” responses from not just journalists and citizens, but also many of those on law enforcement drug task forces.
That drugs can be found in bodily excretions is no surprise. There’s an entire corporate/medical industry reliant on that very fact. That you can track down drug manufacturers by grabbing anonymous… um… data by tapping the sewage backbone is a bit of stretch. It may have helped police get a general sense of where some sort of unadulterated drugs might be flowing from, but my guess is regular, non-shit-sifting policework was involved. Chinese law enforcement have plenty of more effective methods to deploy, especially considering they’re not “hindered” by concerns about civil liberties or reputational damage.
As the article points out, this isn’t the first time sewage has been examined for drug content. But prior to this point, it was done as a really odorous form of drug census. People may not be willing to talk openly about their drug habit(s), but a whole bunch of anonymous donations can be collected without worrying about consent waivers or a rush of entrepreneurial spirits diving into the brown gold for better ad positioning.
What does appear to be more useful is mining the effluvia for “data” showing the efficacy of new drug policies. If law enforcement is targeting certain illegal chemicals, measuring the output is a quick (AND DIRTY!) way to see if drug use is dropping.
Chinese law enforcement suggests its program should be adopted by other countries with drug problems. I’m not sure it will find many takers. While collecting human waste presents approximately zero civil liberties issues, the spokesperson has greatly overestimated law enforcement’s willingness to get its hands dirty… I mean, at least not in this sense. We can hardly get cops to play by the rules we’ve had in place for more than 200 years. I don’t think they’re quite ready to move from the unpleasant task of trash pulls to something even more unappealing.