NJ Police Offer ‘Scent’ Kits to Track Missing People

Remi, a 3-year-old bloodhound, went on nearly 100 missions last year to track down missing people in northern New Jersey. Her energetic hunting narrowed the search in most cases, and sometimes led police directly to someone who had disappeared. Remi’s bosses at the Maywood Police Department want her to have more precise smells to pursue. This week the department became the nation’s first to offer free kits from a California company that helps people store their scents in their freezers. Detective Christopher Nichols hopes the kits will be useful for finding people who wander off, including the elderly with dementia and children with autism. It is urgent to give a search dog something with a unique scent to trace; in some cases none can be found. The missing person’s dirty socks, for example, may have been contaminated by mingling with other people’s laundry.

Called “Find’em Scent Safe,” the kit has gloves and gauze for pressing on the user’s neck or armpit to pick up odor. The gauze goes into a plastic bag and then a small gray box that goes into the user’s freezer. In an emergency, the family can hand it to investigators. Coby Webb, a southern California police captain and treasurer of the National Police Bloodhound Association, developed the product. She began marketing it in earnest last year. Thousands of kits have been sold. Anyone could put his own dirty socks in the freezer without the $20 kit, but the box design helps protect it from tampering. Some families of people at risk of wandering use bracelets with GPS devices to monitor them, but those can lose battery power or cell service. About 613,000 people were reported missing in 2018 to the FBI, two-thirds of them children.

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