How Scent Preservation Is Helping Law Enforcement Find Missing Persons

Joe Blanton, Scent Evidence K9 [GUEST BLOG]

Several Sheriff’s offices and Police Departments have implemented a new public safety program to help find missing persons and bring them home safely. The programs all utilize scent preservation kits that the agencies then distribute to those in the community with family members who are at high-risk for becoming lost. Two major populations that are served by the programs are those with Dementia or Autism. 

The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with autism and a study by the American Pediatric Association states that almost 50% of these children will go missing at least once before the age of 17. Studies have also shown that 6 out 10 individuals with dementia will become lost.

Capt. Alicia Walker from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said, “We’ve purchased1,000 Scent Preservation Kits and will be using them in conjunction with our Extra Special Person (ESP) program in an effort to find missing people faster and bring them home safely. Whether it is an elderly individual with Alzheimer’s disease, a person with Autism or a young child, these scent preservation kits will allow us to have the purest sample of that missing person’s scent readily
available for our K9s to use to track.”

Former FBI Forensic Canine Operations Specialist, Paul Coley, developed the scent preservation kits to provide scent discriminate K9 Trailing Teams with an uncontaminated scent during missing persons cases. “Having a preserved scent before an event occurs dramatically increases the chances of finding a missing person safely while reducing the find time when every minute counts.” Coley stated. Coley made international news recently when the story of a Citrus Co. Florida woman with dementia was located using one of his kits. Coley added, “The woman had preserved her own scent 2 ½  years prior to the case and was located within 5 minutes of presenting the kit to the K9 team. Research shows the scent preservation kit can last up to 10 years and eliminates the lengthy dismissal process usually needed when using a typical scent article, like a shirt or hat.”

Lt. Robert Siemer of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office states, “Scent preservation can save lives and money. It’s a life-saving tool and will save a lot of time trying to find somebody. Searching for a missing person requires a great deal of resources. Historically, if a loved one went missing that has Alzheimer’s or dementia, we could send as many deputies as we could. We’d send our helicopters up here. The kits help a K-9 zero in on the scent.”

“Having a good scent article is key to starting a successful K-9 track,” said Sgt. Kyle Albritton, who leads the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit. “One of these kits could definitely save somebody’s life.”

Cindy Ritenour, Administrative Aid for the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Bureau stated, “I thought it was a great idea, not only for my family, but for anybody who is a caretaker for an autistic child or an elderly person with dementia since they are at risk of getting lost.”

To promote the latest in scent discriminate trailing methods, Sheriff John R. Mehr of Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson, TN recently hosted a K9 Trailing Seminar to launch their new West Tennessee Training Center. The seminar, conducted by Scent Evidence K9, featured comprehensive Scent Discriminate K9 training for handler teams, Scent Preservation Education, Search Strategies, and Drone Technology Integration presented by the FBI Forensic Canine Team and the Florida State University Director Emergency Management and Homeland Security Team. Scent Evidence K9 has also opened a 1000-acre K9 training facility in Bolivar, TN to provide K9 training opportunities and trained scent discriminate and electronic communication device detection K9’s to K9 Trailing Units across the country.