Jewish World Review August 2, 2002 / 24 Menachem-Av, 5762

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Medicine, crime and canines | For Samantha, Danielle, Elizabeth, JonBenet, Cassandra and . . .

Their names whirl and twirl by our eyes daily like kids on a carousel. The heartache is they are all gone now. What more can be done to stop this madness, or at least to insure that the monsters who prey upon children end up where they belong?

One possibility involves combining some recently available technology with humanity's finest four-legged friend, the dog. In this case, the bloodhound.

Hard to believe, but there is vital evidence ignored and neglected at nearly every crime scene. This elusive evidence is known as scent -- the "forgotten evidence." You can't see it, illuminate it, photograph it, find it with a laser, or lift it like a fingerprint. Yet, it can be as accurate as a fingerprint, and always there. Criminals may walk on a concrete floor and leave no tracks, wear gloves and leave no fingerprints. But they will always leave scent.

Enter the bloodhounds, so named not because they smell blood, but because they were originally the pets of European aristocracy. They are blessed with approximately 150 square centimeters of olfactory sensors compared to 3 square centimeters for humans. It is no coincidence that the olfactory nerve is the first of 12 cranial nerves -- many associated with the human senses. We're all familiar, through the movies and television, with bloodhounds sent in search of escaped convicts, kidnap victims and a variety of Sherlock Holmes characters.

Bloodhound testimony has been accepted in court providing there is additional corroborative evidence to support it. (Of course, it also took time for DNA technology to mature to the point where it could stand up in court). There's also another perennial problem: contamination. By the time the dogs arrive, dozens of law enforcement personnel, CSI units and reporters have usually shuttled all over the crime scene. There are enough different scents to drive most dogs to drink. Also, those diagnostic whiffs diminish and disperse over time. Therefore, to have evidentiary value, it is critical that the suspect's scent be collected immediately!

Accordingly Larry Harris, a former reserve bloodhound handler with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and current bloodhound handler with the Irvine Police Department, along with his New York partner, have founded Tolhurst Big T Enterprises, Inc. They developed the STU-100 method of scent transfer, which uses proprietary technology to collect scent evidence on a five by nine inch sterile gauze pad. This leads to a major improvement in the utilization of scent for both trailing and evidence -- as scent can be maintained like fingerprints long after the crime scene ceases.

Previously, bloodhounds were given an article of clothing or other evidence to smell and follow. Since the Harris technique extracts the odor evidence onto the pad the police can take clothing and other evidence to their lab immediately -- an immense advantage.

"Trace," Harris's dog, is given the command to trail the specific scent. Even if the crime scene is contaminated, Harris can overcome this by walking Trace past all the personnel present at the crime scene. Trace can then eliminate these extraneous smells from the one on the pad. Amazingly -- Trace can differentiate smells by using the computer in that friendly head with all those redundant wrinkles. Call it an Olfac-Mac. This practice is known in the business as following the "missing member."

The best part is that the Bloodhound's computer is fun to maintain and user-friendly. It is walkable, portable, does not need electricity, software or expensive upgrades. Just add food, water and lots of love. It does occasionally crash for sleep.

At the very least, parents should consider making a scent pad for every child as a matter of routine. An easy and cheap method is to discard the top paper towel from a roll and have each child take a towel to crinkle between his hands for a minute and then rub over his face. Double plastic bag the towel and place it in the freezer. Tests have shown that scent evidence will last for several years.

If we educate ourselves and adopt these new tricks immediately perhaps the child molesters will learn that they will be rapidly sought, caught and pay the ultimate price. What greater tribute and remembrance to the fallen children than to remember that they stimulated the nation to finally take action. Let's also pay tribute to 7 year old Erica Platt who courageously escaped from her kidnappers or otherwise might have been the next victim.

Utilizing the essence of scent makes societal sense now!

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., of Newport Beach, Calif., writes on medical, legal, disability and mental health reform. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., of Aberdeen, Wash., is president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists who write numerous commentaries and articles for newspapers, newsletters, magazines and journals nationally and internationally. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002