Not all crimes smell fishy | india | Hindustan Times
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Not all crimes smell fishy

A Chinese agency has set up the world?s first bank of smells, sourced from crime sites and human body odour. This is supposed to help police dogs compare smells at the site of crime with ones in the bank and then hit the trail.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2006 00:18 IST
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Do dogs have a nose for trouble? Apparently yes — at least for trouble-makers, that is. To make matters easier for forensic officials of the canine variety, a Chinese agency has set up the world’s first bank of smells — sourced from crime sites and (ew!) human body odour. This is supposed to help police dogs compare smells at the site of crime with ones in the bank and then hit the trail.

For readers more familiar with the local police’s propensity to lose track during investigations, this concept may be a tad difficult to visualise. So, how are smells of a crime captured? In usual olfactory forensics, smells are recorded from crime sites using gauze pads and stored in tightly sealed plastic containers — for investigation of a particular case. The odour bank in China’s Nanjing province is the first of its kind and boasts an account base of 500 smells, all stored at sub-zero temperatures. The bank manager is hopeful that the body odours captured (on clothing for instance) can be kept ‘fresh’ and ‘alive’ for upto three years. That the police dogs have already helped identify 23 criminals using scents from the bank clearly shows that the smell is here to stay.

Before a stink is raised about this — invasion of privacy and all that — it’s prudent to add here that body odour has little to do with hygiene. And to throw people off that scent, dogs aren’t employed. Perfumers are and they call the deciphering of odours ‘fragrance analysis’. It is all about capturing the essence of an experience.