We mentioned the vapor tracer briefly in our initial report, in association with CalWatch. The new consortium of investigative reporters poured over inspection reports by the California Office of Homeland Security and found many examples of mismanagement and waste. My personal favorite was one local agency that tried to use homeland security money to buy a lawnmower.
When we were researching that report, we asked the AC Transit Security Director about the vapor tracers his agency bought. Larry Perea answered, "Oh yeah, I have one right here in my desk." Of course, we wondered why it would be in his desk and not out with officers on the street who would be checking buses for explosives. One question lead to another -- Perea backed out of an interview and demonstration of his vapor tracer -- and we realized the devices have never been used in a real-life situation. In fact, the bomb squads to whom Perea gave the devices refuse to use them, for a simple reason: you have to get very close to a bomb for the vapor tracer to get a reading. It makes more sense to send a bomb-sniffing dog or a robot to do the job.
Here's the brochure on the vapor tracer made by General Electric and, thanks to our colleagues at CalWatch, here are the reports from the California Office of Homeland Security that are critical of the vapor tracer purchase.