The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is handing out scent preservation kits to assist them with finding missing persons, particularly those with special needs.
MCSO is using the kits for its Extra Special Person program. The ESP program has nearly 600 people registered.
The program includes those with memory debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also includes people with autism, who can also be more likely to wander from their caregivers.
Lauren Lettelier, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said caregivers can sometimes contaminate the scent of a missing person, and the kits can help with this problem.
“We always tell people, on the Extra Special Persons Program, when your loved one goes missing or they wander away don’t walk over their scent,” she said. “(Don’t walk) where they may have gone out of the house or where they were last seen, because when we bring our K-9’s there, it’s going to be a contaminated track.”
The sheriff’s office is one of three departments in Florida that have purchased scent preservation kits from Scent Evidence K- 9. C-E-O and co- founder Paul Coley said his work at the FBI inspired him to start making preservation kits.
“We would work cases and some articles would be contaminated with other odor,” Coley said. “We would have to work through those it would take time, and time is something you don’t have with missing person’s cases or abducted individuals.”
The sheriff’s office is providing the kit free to those in the ESP program to pair with their ESP bracelets. ESP bracelets have an identification number that helps sheriff’s deputies identify the person missing and bring them home.
When caregivers receive the scent kit, they must swipe under the special person’s armpit to seal their scent on a pad. They must then secure it in a sterile glass jar with tamper proof tape.
If the person goes missing, the caregiver can give the scent kit to the deputy and a K-9 will have a fresh scent to track.
“It’s going to be so much easier when we respond to that residence. They’re going to have that scent sample at the residence and they’re going to be able to give it to us right when we get there,” Lettelier said. “When we go to that call of service, we’ll have that to be able to start tracking right away.”
Coley explained the science behind the scent preservation comes from various studies and court cases including scent preservation.
They use the armpit area because a lot of odor comes from there, he said.
Departments can also get DNA from the area if they need it. The preservation kits last from six to ten years if stored properly.
The sheriff’s office recently did a test on the kit with a sample they stored for approximately two months. MCSO Sgt. Daniel Trammell’s scent was tracked successfully by a K-9 after officers contaminated his trail to stimulate a real search. Trammell works on the K-9 unit.
Lettelier said while they are mainly reaching out to those in the ESP program for the kits, they have a handful of kits to give for children.
To sign up for the Scent Preservation Kit program residents can call the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Unit at 352-732-9111.