PITTSBURGH, PA (Sept. 27, 2019) – The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, in conjunction with Allegheny General Hospital and FBI Pittsburgh, today announced the launch of the Scentsational Tracking Program featuring the Police Bloodhound.
The goal of the program is to create a safety net for those who might get lost and have trouble finding their way home.
PBP and Allegheny General Hospital will assist residents in collecting and packaging the scent of a loved one in a sterile container. The family maintains the scent container, which is usable for seven years. Should a loved one go missing, the family gives the sealed scent container to Police for the Bloodhound to track.
“The Bloodhound’s skills are honed to a point where it can differentiate between identical twins,” said Police Lt. Charles Henderson, who oversees the tracking program. “Where this is going to be most beneficial is with our most vulnerable communities, people who have cognitive disabilities and are prone to being lost. But we’ll do this for anyone who wants it.”
Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich noted that the Bloodhound will be available to other communities in western Pennsylvania.
“Whether it’s a senior citizen or a child, we’ll be able to work with our partners in the FBI and find the missing child or adult,” Hissrich said. “And we will share that asset with everyone who wants to use it. All of our assets -- whether it be the explosives dogs, drugs dogs, the fireboat -- whatever we have will respond outside the city, which we do almost every day.”
The Scentsational Tracking Program officially launched today at Point State Park where the Bureau’s current Bloodhound, Cappy, and his handler, Officer Kevin Merkel, gave a demonstration by tracking a Public Safety employee.
“You just saw firsthand how important these dogs will be to investigations across our area,” said FBI Pittsburgh Supervisory Special Agent Scott Argiro. “We have a long-standing partnership with the Pittsburgh Police special ops team and have worked many of these cases side by side. These dogs are one more incredible tool we add to our tool box. Their specialized training allows them to help all of us find a scent and a lead to follow very early on. When every minute counts, those leads are crucial.”
Allegheny General Hospital donated the containers and equipment, meaning the program is free to all who wish to participate.
How to get involved: Police will host community outreach events at which the containers will be provided. In addition, Allegheny General Hospital will collect scents at regular appointments. Lastly, residents can call their local Police Zone and ask for a Community Resource Officer or Neighborhood Resource Officer for more information.
Additional Background: Bloodhounds are one of the top canine breeds for scent discrimination. They search for skin cells that have fallen from their target. The bloodhound can differentiate the odor of the target from other people.
Storing the scent correctly is an important part of the program. The scent is collected and packaged according to the best practices outlined by the FBI. It is best stored in a refrigerator. If that is not feasible, then storing the sample at a temperate less than 76 degrees Fahrenheit and at a humidity level less than 60 percent will be the next best option. Not breaking the seal of the container until needed will ensure that the scent is not contaminated.