‘Skin sniffing’ technology tracking alcoholics

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Technology that sniffs your skin is helping people stay out of jail and sober up.   It`s an ankle bracelet called SCRAM.  Nearly 400 people in the St. Louis are wearing one right now.  SCRAM can tell if you`ve been drinking, by monitoring the vapors from your skin.  You can imagine that people who want to keep liquoring up have thought of some strange ways to try to beat it.

A SCRAM monitoring specialist said, "A business card is very popular, since it`s very small they think they can get away with it."

Brian Roth said some people have even used lunch meat. They think it`ll look like skin to the SCRAM.  Roth explained, "What that`s going to do is it`s going to break that infra-red and it`s going to show a tamper there for us."

It sniffs the skin, takes a temperature and monitors distance and color.  St. Charles County Drug Court Administrator Julie Seymore wanted to relate to defendants.  She tried one as an experiment.  Seymore said, "They knew when I went to sleep.  They knew when I got up to take a shower the next morning.  I was teasing them about where is the actual video camera?  Because they knew a lot of things I had no idea they could tell."

Her readings showed a spike where she tried to tamper with it by using a cocktail napkin. She didn`t know it had alcohol on it.  "It shot my readings all the way up to .420 which I think most people would be dead."

Some credit that precision with their recovery.

One recovering alcoholic said, "You can`t fool this thing.  I still had my alcohol addiction, but it took that itch away so I could focus."  Focus on therapy and dealing with post-traumatic stress from the Gulf War. Chris said SCRAM took away the pressure of dealing with the Court after a DUI.  He explained, "If you don`t believe me then, being sober and not drinking, believe this thing.  Because, you know for one, we lie a lot and we can look you right in the eye and lie.  But this thing isn`t lying.  So it would back me up on my word and it would make me feel better."

Rewarded by this ultimate invasion of privacy.  Mike Smith who administers SCRAM in St. Louis says he`s also seen other surprises. Smith said, "We`ve had individuals, because of their drinking history, they`ve lost 72 pounds while they`ve been on this device because of all the dead calories that are in alcohol."

On some days SCRAM officers find more people tampering with the device than they find people drinking.  Just trying to cheat is a possible felony charge.

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E-mail Chris.Hayes@TvStl.com


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