Terrorist bombings have become more frequent across the world. The last occurred in May at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, where 22 lives were lost, according to NBC News.
The NYPD is exploring different ways to combat the threat of terrorist bombers, according to an article by The New York Post. Their latest secret weapon can find terrorists in the middle of crowds from several football fields away–police dogs trained to sniff out vapors emitted by bombs.
The NYPD revealed it has trained eight Labrador Retrievers to smell the vapors emitted from explosives, such as the kind used on suicide vests by terrorists. It’s hoped that these dogs will be able to detect terrorists carrying bombs at concerts and other large group activities.
Paul Waggoner, co-director of the Canine Performances Sciences Program at Auburn University that bred the dogs, says the dogs are cutting-edge technology in the war against terror. “Vapor-wake dogs can interrogate a large space with many persons moving through the space, instead of inspecting persons one-by-one. This is what makes them the most effective technology for screening at large-event venues and mass transit.”
This is because the dogs detect the vapors emitted by the bombs. Previously, bomb-sniffing dogs could only detect explosive particles on stationary objects and required one-on-one detection. Yet these dogs can sniff the air, allowing them to scan hundreds of people at a time.
Even the presence of these dogs at an event could be enough to ward off terrorists who worry about getting caught before they can set the bomb off.
Waggoner also claimed these bomb sniffing dogs might have been able to find the suicide bomber before he set the bomb off at the Manchester Ariana Grande concert. “Yes, if the dogs were trained on the target odors associated with the explosive materials that were used,” he noted.
Knowing that these dogs may have prevented the chaos that saw 22 people die from the suicide bombing at the concert makes them a welcome and valuable addition to public security.
While there haven’t been any legitimate threats in the US, al Qaida has expressed an interest in attacking the US Open that’s supposed to take place later this month in Flushing, New York. The presence of these dogs at the event could ward off a disastrous terrorist attack.
Morty Dzikansky, a former official for NYPD’s counterterrorism and intelligence department, says the dogs are a welcome addition to counterterrorism efforts, but should not replace profiling efforts. “Bomb-sniffing dogs are great, and whether effective or not, they still offer a visual deterrent. But there is a better solution to increase mitigation success called behavioral pattern recognition,” he said.
He explained that behavioral pattern recognition is studying people for tell-tale signs that they may be preparing for terrorist acts, such as thick clothing “inappropriate for the season” that could be hiding suicide vests or holding large bags “incompatible with the surroundings” that may contain explosives.
In any case, these explosive vapor-sniffing dogs are a welcome addition to the fight against terror and their presence at large activities will hopefully make the world a little safer. Americans should pray for peace at the US Open in Flushing in a couple of days, and that the dogs can help prevent future chaos such as that in Manchester.