Gizmo saves crime scene 'smell'; gets conviction
Officials differ on value of machineDecember 23, 1996
Web posted at: 11:35 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Jim Hill
IRVINE, California (CNN) -- Dogs are being used in a new way for good old-fashioned police work, with the help of a machine that picks up scents.
Police in Irvine used the dog-machine combination to secure a murder conviction. They say their bloodhound walked up to the suspect after smelling the odor from the victim's shirt that had been frozen and stored for nine months.
"There were many people that the dog could have followed, but it only chose one," said Police Detective Larry Montgomery.
The so-called "scent transfer unit" extracts odors from an article into a sterile pad, which is then double-bagged until it is presented to a bloodhound.
Investigators who use the device say it can be a useful law enforcement tool. But the system has its critics, even from within police ranks.
Notably, the National Police Bloodhound Association does not condone the machine. The group says the device allows too much contamination to be drawn into the scent pad.
Attorney Sharon Petrosino, who defended the murder suspect captured with the Irvine Police bloodhound, dubbed the machine a vacuum cleaner.
"The machine had absolutely no testing," Petrosino said. "In fact, the maker of the machine said, 'This was just a little home project that I did until I got it the way I liked it.'"
Nationwide, it is estimated several hundred police and sheriff's departments are using the $450 machines.
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