TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Local Business Using Human Scent to Bring Missing People Home. Right now, more than 88,000 families in the United States are hurting, waiting for a missing loved one to come home.
By: Abby Walton | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 22, 2018
It’s this reality driving local Tallahassee business, Scent Evidence K9, to help families prepare for the unthinkable.Most never imagining their family member could go missing. But the truth is, it can happen to anyone.
6-year old Stella loves board-games. Like any parent, her mother wanted to protect her innocence forever.
“They live in a world that’s black and white and they’re not aware of that grey area and that grey area is where the dangers are,” Natalie Colon said.
Dangers Stella may not notice because she has autism.
“The statistic is 50-percent. 50-percent of children with Autism are going to go missing,” Natalie explained.
To help educate the Big Bend area about children on the spectrum, Natalie started a non-profit called, “Stella’s S.T.A.R’s.” S.T.AR.’s stands for Supporting the Autism Revolution.
With safety at the top of her mind, Natalie said her family’s life was changed the day her daughter came home with a gift from camp.
“Stella was in church camp over the summer and came home one day with a Scent Evidence K-9 kit. I did some research and thought this is amazing,” Natalie said.
The kit is the brainchild of Tallahassee residents Donna and Paul Coley, a retired FBI K-9 specialist.
Its purpose is to collect human scent, ready to go in case a loved one goes missing.
“It’s one of the most permanent pieces of evidence or clues in a scene. You can’t wash it away, you can’t burn it, you can’t get rid of it. It’s there. If you are physically there, your scent’s there,” Paul Coley said.
But so is everyone else’s.
For example, if someone goes missing, a family member may give police a blanket. But, before the K-9’s can look for the missing person, they must go through a scent dismissal process.
This continues until they know the missing person’s scent is the only one they need to focus on.
“It takes time and it reduces our efficiency and our effectiveness,” Paul said.
The Coley’s are working to change the way law enforcement looks for missing persons.
“Our dogs are trained for target odor, which is a person’s specific odor or scent. That scent is specific to you, just like your DNA or fingerprint,” Paul said.