Issue: Transnational criminal organizations are capitalizing on the difficulty and expense of detecting containerized contraband once in transit, due to huge increases in the volume of ‘legal’ containers shipped worldwide and pressure to keep commerce moving.
Objective: This research aims to develop a low-cost method using detection dogs to examine air samples in shipping containers for contraband, without breaking customs seals. The Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense Center of Excellence project with the Center for Conservation Biology and Conservation Canines Program at the University of Washington is developing an apparatus that draws air from the outside vents at the top of each shipping container using a canister containing an inexpensive odor-collection material that captures the contraband scent. The sealed sample canisters are taken nearby and presented to detection dogs trained to alert to specific contraband scents.
Outcome: The research is testing the accuracy and sensitivity of the methods, including true positive and false positive detections rates, and how the threshold of detection varies with type and strength of the contraband odor in the presence of various nontarget odors likely to be comingled with the contraband.
Value Proposition: The research will optimize methods for transferring this technology to existing canine programs worldwide, allowing agents to search containers for contraband with minimal disruption to port operations and provide criminal investigators with another tool to fight illegal imports.