OAKLAND, Md. — It’s the worst nightmare type of scenario -- your child goes missing, or an elderly parent disappears. While nothing can diminish that initial panic, police officers now have a new method that could help find missing persons faster, using simple gauze pads and a bloodhound.
A bloodhound’s nose is simply amazing. A few sniffs of a personal object and the bloodhound hones in on a scent trail. City streets, with all their human distractions, have little effect on the bloodhound’s singular drive: to find a missing person in a big chaotic world.
"There's a lot of wind, there's a lot of distractions, there's a lot of traffic," Ocean County, New Jersey police dog handler Christine Cassulo said. "So with the hard surface, she's going to track more to the grass because the scent needs something to stick to."
WUSA9 caught up with the National Police Bloodhound Association at their annual recertification training in Garrett County, Maryland. Retired California Sheriff’s Captain Coby Webb, who has over 20 years of experience handling bloodhounds, runs this training exercise.
She points out getting the right scent for a bloodhound can be challenging.
"People will say, 'Well, just use the pillowcase,'" Webb said. "Well, for the pillowcase, I have young children, and I kiss them goodnight, I put the pillowcase on the pillow after I wash the sheets -- my scent is everywhere on that pillowcase. So when I go looking for my missing child, I'm laying a trail, and what happens is it confuses the dog."
Webb designed the “Find’Em Scent Safe" and said it can double a bloodhound’s chances of finding someone.
Here's how the method works:
- Place a gauze pad in an area where a person sweats, like their forehead or armpit.
- Keep it there for a few minutes to soak up the perspiration and trap scents.
- Place the gauze pad inside an adhesive-sealed plastic bag -- a regular ziplock bag might not hold in that scent.
- Stick it in your home freezer.
Product testing shows even after a year in the freezer, a bloodhound can pick up that scent 93% of the time.
These same techniques can also be used in nursing homes for dementia patients.
"It also helps law enforcement to remember to call for a dog right away," Webb said. "We want you thinking 'call the dog' right away, not as a last resort."
Most counties have at least one bloodhound and state police forces have several. Seven thousand scent kits are being distributed to police departments and the public for free through Get Bit Investigations, a private investigator firm in Riverside, California.
To ask for kits, email firstname.lastname@example.org.