Police departments fired up over drug incinerator

November 12, 2015 From Chicago Tribune

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Officials with several local police departments watched Thursday as Hobart police Detective Corey Hanrahan disposed of five large boxes of confiscated marijuana quickly, efficiently and in an environmentally safe manner.

Hanrahan was demonstrating the department’s new “drug terminator,” an unimpressive-looking piece of equipment that he said does an impressive job of destroying both illegal drugs and leftover prescription drugs that individuals have brought to the department for disposal.

The $5,000 unit consists of a 55-gallon drum with a stainless steel cover and a high-pressure fan attached to it. The drugs are placed in a metal container and dropped into the drum from a latch on the bottom.

The fan feeds oxygen to the drum and incinerates everything inside, including plastic, needles and other drugs, Hobart police Lt. James Gonzales said.

Hanrahan said one medical item that can’t be placed in the incinerator is an inhaler. He said they could be placed in recycling bins.

The incinerator was purchased from Elastec, of Carmi, Ill., using local option income tax money.

“I really like that it’s made in the U.S.,” Hanrahan said.

The machine releases a low amount of emissions, making it environmentally safe, but it’s loud. Hanrahan wore earplugs for the demonstration.

Munster police Chief Stephen Scheckel said Munster, Highland, Griffith and Schererville police departments are looking to go in together to purchase one of the machines for the four communities to use. He said not all the details have been worked out yet, but the machine will probably be kept at the Quad Town training facility in Schererville.

Like other police departments, Munster has been having difficulty finding space to store confiscated drugs and destroying the drugs and drug paraphernalia in a safe and effective manner, Scheckel said.

“Hopefully, this will be our solution,” Scheckel said.

Hanrahan said police departments used to take the drugs to the steel mills for disposal, but the mills wouldn’t burn small amounts at a time.

Schererville police Deputy Chief Dennis Zagrocki asked if the person disposing of the drugs and drug paraphernalia had to sort through the bags brought in by the public.

“Our guy didn’t want to get stuck by a needle,” Zagrocki said.

Hanrahan said sorting wasn’t necessary.

Karen Caffarini is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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