Pasco Sheriff’s Office has new tool to track missing persons

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool to help find people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism or other cognitive disorders who wander off.

Sheriff Chris Nocco held a news conference last week to talk about using scent kits to help locate missing persons with cognitive disorders.

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputies Chris Miller and Jimmy Hall, explain how Buster, the bloodhound, tracks the scent of a missing person.
(B.C. Manion)

“What we’re trying to do, as quickly as possible, is to find those loved ones who go missing — find those missing children who have wandered off from the house; those who are dealing with mental disabilities that wander off,” Nocco said.

“The stress on the family is overwhelming,” Nocco said, noting that in addition to other calls, his department handled 1,200 calls regarding missing persons in the past year.

“The faster we can track them, the faster we can find them, the faster that we save them,” the sheriff added.

Besides protecting the missing persons from harm, a quick result alleviates concerns of loved ones and enables the law enforcement agency to deploy its forces sooner to respond to other types of calls, Nocco said.

The scent kits will be distributed through the department’s SafetyNet Program, said Det. Gennis Holsom.

That program uses a transmitter attached to a SafetyNet particpant, which is tracked by deputies with radio receivers. The scent kit will add another tool to that program.

That program focuses on the cognitive disorders community, Holsom said.

“If they wander off, we’ll respond to the scene with receivers, we can put in the unique radio frequency that that particular transmitter emits and we’ll basically track the sound. We can track right to them.

“To add to the toolbox of the Safety Net program, we’re adding the scent kit, starting in June.

“The scent kit is specifically for our bloodhounds. It will be a pure scent, which will be kept at that individual’s house,” he said.

To collect someone’s scent, sterile gauze is rubbed on exposed skin, such as the arm or neck. The gauze is then sealed in a glass jar. The scent can remain viable for 5 years or longer. Care must be taken to collect the scent properly, to be sure there is no cross-contamination.

During the news conference, the department gave a demonstration of how the scent kids will be used.

A bloodhound named Buster was given a sniff of a scent that had been collected and stored in a jar. Working with K-9 deputy Chris Miller, Buster followed a trail that led to a man who was hiding in a stand of pine trees.

The scent kid enables the bloodhound to smell an item that has just the missing person’s scent on it, K-9 deputy Jimmy Hall explained.

“Sometimes, if we take a scent article from the house, three or four other people within the house might have touched it,” Hall said. “If you were to hand me a shirt, there’s no telling how many different scents are on there.”

Those who are interested in learning more about the program should contact Shelby Homko, at (727) 815-7119.

Published June 6, 2018


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