GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The Gaston County Sheriff's Office is officially using a new tool to screen suspects for contraband they may be trying to sneak into the county jail.
The sheriff's office recently purchased a SecurPass body imaging system. The device has been installed inside of the jail facility and suspects are required to pass through it during the intake process.
"Hopefully it's going to improve the safety and security inside our jail by reducing the amount of drugs overall that we see," said Captain Phillip Maxwell with the Gaston County Sheriff's Office.
Suspects being booked into the jail will still be patted down and asked to walk through a metal detector, but now they will also slide through the SecurPass device.
Maxwell said the imaging system uses a single x-ray beam to create an x-ray image of the suspect. Deputies can use the image to see whether the person is trying to hide contraband inside an cavity on their body.
"It became very evident over the course of the last couple years that the amount of contraband was increasing," said Maxwell. "The ways they were hiding it were very different."
He explained the SecurPass will make it much harder for anyone to smuggle drugs into the facility.
"If they just had a few rocks of heroin put in a body cavity that's undetectable by any search that we had before. With this machine we can now actually see through the person and see the drugs," explained Maxwell.
He said the Gaston County Jail is the first facility of its kind to be equipped with a device like the SecurPass in the state of North Carolina. However, the captain said that some of the federal facilities in North Carolina do have similar devices used to screen inmates.
Maxwell said they have been using the imaging system for 20 days in Gaston County and it has already helped deputies find drugs on six different suspects.
He said the machine cost around $189,000 and the purchase was approved by the Gaston County Board of Commissioners.
Maxwell issued a warning to anyone who is taken into custody in Gaston County.
"If you come to Gaston County and you have drugs on your person, you would be wise to give it to the officer at the scene or give it to us before you go through the scanner, because we will find it," said Maxwell.