How One Program Can Help the Search for Missing People
There’s no limit to the lengths people will go to keep their loved ones safe, especially those that are deemed at-risk of wandering off or getting lost. Helping bring these people peace of mind is the police department in Maywood, N.J. and its partnership with Find’em Scent Safe to offer the company’s scent storage cases to its residents at no cost—the first town in the U.S. to do so.
Find’em Scent Safe kits are an emergency preparedness measure that’s available to those that are elderly, disabled or likely to become lost, such as children, hikers or dementia sufferers. Collecting a person’s scent with the kit takes less than 10 minutes: after holding the sterile gauze pad on an optimum scent collection area for five minutes, it’s then placed in the tamper-evident bag and put back into the storage case. When stored properly (in a freezer), the scent collection item is usable for 12 months. With the first three hours being the most critical in a missing persons case, a system of this kind is invaluable.
Enter K9 Remington, aka Remi, the department’s three-year-old Bloodhound who’s helping make this possible. As a breed, Bloodhounds are, “super scent specific and have the most scent receptacles in their noses out of any other dog,” which means they’re able to lock a certain scent into their nose and block out all others, explains Detective/K9 Handler Chris Nichols. That trait’s especially useful in crowded suburban/urban environments where vehicle and human contamination are prevalent.
K9 Remi’s most recent call-out involved an Alzheimer’s patient who had been missing for five hours. After getting a scent off of the missing woman’s pillow case and following it for a half mile, K9 Remi found the woman laying unconscious on the porch of an abandoned house.
“We don’t measure Remi’s success by if she literally walks up to someone,” says Nichols. “It’s measured in whether we would have got there if the dog wasn’t with us. If the answer is ‘no, we wouldn’t have gotten to that point,’ that’s considered success.”
Though K9 Remi was called on 75 times from various towns throughout Bergen County in 2019 alone, it’s not all business for this pup.
“At home, she’s a normal pet,” explains Nichols. “She gets into the garbage, she’ll get on the couch, she’ll steal food from my son’s highchair. She’ll do all the things she doesn’t belong doing.”
Rounding out Maywood’s K-9 unit is K9 Ryker, a two-year-old German Shepard from Slovakia that’s trained in narcotics detection and patrol, which includes criminal apprehension, article and building searches, handler protection and deterrence.