The Bringing The Lost Home Summit kicked off for the very first time in Tallahassee FL, May 5-6, 2021. The event was hosted by Scent Evidence K9 and attended by K9 Teams from participating Florida Bringing The Lost Home Project agencies as well as community leaders from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, The Alzheimer’s Project, Tallahassee Memorial Memory Disorder Clinic, and the Hang Tough Foundation.
The Summit’s purpose was to celebrate the successes and share K9 search best practices of project participants and promote community partnerships through networking opportunities. In less than 2 years since the Bringing The Lost Home Project was introduced in Florida, over 70 people have been found and thousands at risk of wandering in Florida communities are better prepared and protected.
K9 teams from the 12 participating Florida Sheriff’s Offices and Police Departments were invited to attend the first event and share their lifesaving K9 search results and best practices with other visiting agencies around Florida in an effort to improve their scent discriminate K9 trailing performance and work together to support the project’s goals of enhancing missing person response capabilities, K9 search recovery success, and community awareness of Florida’s vulnerable populations with Alzheimer’s Disease and autism who are at high risk of wandering and going missing.
Bringing The Lost Home Summit and Community Impact
The Bringing The Lost Home Summit began with a half-day focus group featuring special guest presentations from The Alzheimer’s Project Exec. Dir., John Trombetta, Florida Dept. of Elder Affairs Dep. Sec. Greg Ungru, Hang Tough Foundation Exec. Dir., Janelle Irwin, and Tallahassee Memorial Memory Disorder Clinic Coordinator, Sonnie Mayewski. The community leaders discussed the Bringing The Lost Home Project’s positive impact on protecting the people they serve.
Tallahassee Police Special Victims Unit Investigator, Kyle Rowland, then led a special presentation highlighting the case deployments with Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, and how the 2 organizations worked together to find missing persons and solve criminal cases using scent discriminate K9 trailing techniques and advanced scent collection methods. One particular case led to the Tallahassee Police Dept. receiving the 2020 IACP/Thomson Reuters Excellence in Criminal Investigations Award. Given by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), this award recognizes a law enforcement agency, unit, task force, or inter-agency task force for exceptional innovation in criminal investigations.
The visiting K9 Teams then attended a special 2-day Advanced Urban K9 Trailing scenario-based training seminar with Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, to further their K9 search capabilities in urban settings. The training featured a drone overwatch and command center demonstration from the Florida State University Emergency Management and Homeland Security Department drone team and included a variety of heavily contaminated training trails up to 48-hours old. The training utilized trail-layers from the Hang Tough Foundation and community volunteers to demonstrate techniques on approaching children and people with special needs safely.
The Bringing The Lost Home Project bill was sponsored by Florida House Representative, Scott Plakon and signed into law by Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, in June 2019. In the past 2 years, Sheriff’s Offices in Bay, Sumter, Seminole, Lee, St. Johns, Charlotte, Putnam, DeSoto, Nassau, Franklin, and Marion Counties, and The Tallahassee Police Department have implemented Bringing The Lost Home Project services. 77% of participating agencies have reported successful deployments with 62% having success the same month as training.
Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, and The Alzheimer’s Project CEO, John Trombetta, partnered to introduce the bill to help law enforcement better serve their populations with Alzheimer’s/Related Dementia and autism who are at high-risk of wandering and going missing. The Bringing The Lost Home Project enhances missing person response capabilities and recovery success by raising missing person awareness, mitigating risk, and improving search performance through the use of missing person response training, scent discriminate K9 trailing, and an innovative Scent Kit program that helps to create missing person awareness and provides an effective way for families and caregivers to prepare for a wandering event before it happens.
The program is focused on recovering individuals who have a propensity to wander or elope with a rapid response and recovery. The bill provides Scent Preservation Kits® or “Scent Kits” to families with loved ones living with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementia (ADRD), and autism.
The Alzheimer’s Project identifies groups and areas in need of services and works to educate residents about the Scent Kits and Missing Person Awareness for at-risk groups. They also provide Alzheimer’s awareness training to the participating agencies to help mitigate potential trauma to the individual and expand law enforcement interaction skills with a person who has dementia.
Bringing The Lost Home Project also includes Missing Person Response Protocol and Scent Discriminate K-9 Trailing training for the participating agencies which will impact law enforcement response capabilities by increasing search success and decreasing the time and resources needed to find missing persons.
Protecting and Recovering People At Risk of Wandering
Florida has the second-largest Alzheimer’s Disease population in the U.S. with 580,000 residents living with the disease. That number is projected to climb to 720,000 by 2025. Studies show that 60% or 3 of every 5 persons with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia will wander and go missing. The Florida Dept. of Elder Affairs has partnered with Scent Evidence K9 to distribute thousands of Scent Kits to elder care facilities and residents through their Memory Disorder Clinics.
The numbers are almost as high for children with autism. The American Pediatric Association states that 50% of those with children with autism will wander/elope and go missing at least once before age 17. The Hang Tough Foundation has partnered with Scent Evidence K9 and the Tallahassee Police Dept. to make Scent Kits available to caregivers and families in need.
Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, a former FBI Forensic Canine Operations Specialist, has made it his company’s mission to not only improve missing person response capabilities for communities but to protect individuals before they go missing. “To see the entire Bringing The Lost Home eco-system expanding and saving lives throughout Florida and communities around the world is the reason we exist. Every week we get excited phone calls from our agency partners and K9 handlers saying they found another child or someone’s grandfather, and they’re safe. It doesn’t get any better than that for us,” stated Coley.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Bringing The Lost Home Project.