When a suspect flees after committing a crime, it is usually before the police arrive on the scene. Fleeing criminals may employ any number of tactics to elude police. Some will try to put distance between themselves and the scene. Others will try to hide in any number of types of places like in bushes, up in trees, in houses, under cars,or on top of buildings. You never know how a particular criminal will act or what they will do to get away. But whatever that is, a K-9 team can follow them everywhere they decide to go or try to hide.
Police K-9 Patrol dogs are trained to be able to pick up on a person’s unique scent and follow it until it leads to them the person who left that scent behind. Everyone’s scent is unique and to a Police K-9 that scent is as unique as a fingerprint is to a human investigator.
Depending on who you talk to, dogs have 200 to 300 million olfactory receptors compared to 5 to 6 million receptors in humans. The part of the dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing scents is proportionally 40 times greater than in humans. Because of this, a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than humans and able to identify every component of that scent individually.
A person leaves his unique scent behind everywhere they go. We constantly shed skin cells at a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 cells per hour. It is these cells laying on the ground that are uniquely identifiable to the K-9 as belonging to the person they are tracking along with odors created by disturbances to the ground caused by the person as they walk or run. Depending on conditions this track may be detectable to the K-9 for a considerable length of time.
The K-9’s partner or handler has an assortment of leashes and collars which when attached to or placed on the K9, signals the kind of person the K-9 is asked to find. The K-9 will act differently depending on the type of track they are performing. If they are looking for lost child or a missing adult such as an Alzheimer’s patient they will treat that person differently than a fleeing felon.
K-9 Officers and handlers both need to be in good physical condition. Searches can last several hours and cover many miles. The K-9 officer and his partner must know how to read each others body language, as much information is transferred by body language. For example; a subtle change in the K-9’s behavior may indicate that the dog is getting close to the subject and the officer must be prepared for any situation.
The BPD K-9 Unit is a vital resource of the Barnstable Police Department and or K-9s have tracked and found hundreds of criminals and lost persons over the years. Our K-9s have played a major role in the apprehension and identification of scores of criminals and missing and lost persons saving many lives.