The New York Police Department will be using a special police tool to protect people attending the US Open Tennis Championships later this month. Their secret weapon against terrorists: Labrador retrievers.
The special Labradors are vapor-wake dogs, trained to pick up the airborne vapors that come from suicide vests, belts and backpacks. Using their well-tuned sense of smell, the canines can trace the scent of the vapors from several hundred yards away.
The vapor-dogs will be used to prevent a terrorist bombing targeting the large group of attendees. Bombers like to target such groups, as they did after an Ariana Grande concert at Britain’s Manchester Arena in May. In that attack, 22 people died, including young children, when Salman Abedi exploded a suicide vest.
The NYPD is hoping to prevent such a tragedy with eight Labradors that look like friendly service dogs, as the department seeks new ways to boost security at places where large groups of people gather.
“The NYPD has vapor-wake dogs that are deployed throughout the city to locations including concert venues,” a department spokesperson told The New York Post.
Each canine is named after a fallen NYPD officer, and unlike traditional bomb-sniffing dogs, vapor-wake dogs detect body-worn explosives on a moving target. The Labradors weave through crowds, and can screen hundreds of people quickly. Traditional “sniffers” only detect stationary explosives left at a site.
The dogs were bred at the Canine Performance Sciences Program at Auburn University. According to Paul Waggoner, co-director of the program, the dogs could well have prevented the tragic bombing in Manchester, as long as they were trained on the specific explosive materials that were used.
Using a small sample of the explosive, the vapor-dogs are trained to recognize vapors 10 minutes after a person has left an area, and can then follow the scent to its source.
“Vapor-wake dogs can interrogate a large space with many persons moving through the space, instead of inspecting persons one-by-one,” Waggoner said. “This is what makes them the most effective technology for screening at large-event venues and mass transit.”
The dogs, reportedly, are just one of the security measures in place for the Open. The US Department of Homeland Security has advised authorities to look for “suicide bomber indicators.” Some of the department’s examples include:
- short haircut or recently shaved beard or mustache
- the odor of herbal or flower water
- weapons to prepare for (Islamic) Paradise
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