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Dutch Police Recruit Rats To Sniff Out Crime

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the law-and-order-rat-mystery-club dept.

Crime 80

An anonymous reader writes "Ratting someone out' just became much more literal. Dutch police are using trained rats to help keep the streets clean. 'Detective Derrick and his rat partners cost just £8 each and are capable of being trained to identify an impressive range of odors—including drugs and explosives—within ten to 15 days. In contrast, a police dog costs thousands of pounds and requires a minimum training period of eight months. The training procedure is straightforward: the rats are kept in a cage with four metal tea strainers attached inside, one of which contains gunpowder. When the rat recognizes the smell, it is rewarded with a "click" and a small treat. Eventually the rat will learn to move towards the smell instantly. In a demonstration it takes Derrick just two seconds to locate the offending odor."

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80 comments

rehash of old story (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990273)

thanks!

What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (5, Funny)

mrspoonsi (2955715) | about 7 months ago | (#44990287)

I can see an animal arms race there.

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990397)

Snakes are easier to conceal.

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about 7 months ago | (#44990413)

I trump you with my miniature giant space hamster.

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#44994599)

Careful now. Miniature giant space hamsters tend to go for the eyes, and that leads to police brutality lawsuits.

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44994739)

Ah but he can say My Ancestors came over on the Mayflower dont you know! This instantly makes them American Royalty

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (2)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 7 months ago | (#44990419)

That is why the rats are kept in cages. But I wonder what happens if you apply a strong odour (for rats) to your site. Could mint oil be sufficient to render the rats useless?

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (5, Interesting)

TheP4st (1164315) | about 7 months ago | (#44991747)

Likely that would be about as effective with rats as it is with dogs, i.e. not at all. What might work is to use urine from an animal that prey on rats, ferrets in particular come to mind as they are extraordinarily efficient on hunting rodents and therefore it would make sense that rats have an instinctive fear of them.

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#44997085)

What might work is to use urine from an animal that prey on rats

Many rodents have an innate fear of the smell of cats. So cat urine should work well unless the critter is infected with toxoplasmosis [huffingtonpost.com].

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | about 6 months ago | (#45009119)

You could always salt the floor. I have heard that that screws up the dogs but it may just be an old wives tale.

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44992445)

yeah, the odour thingee might work out RATher well....

what about sniffing-out BLOOD-DIAMONDS, EXCSTACY, or XYZ-forbidden, israeli WMD !?!?

Re:What next the criminals recruit lots of cats? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991139)

If we had this in America they would chase all the DemocRATS. Go corporate ObamaCare!

I smell a rat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990291)

Commence rat jokes.

Re:I smell a rat. (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#44990445)

Commence rat jokes.

Bah, rat jokes are stupid, as opposed to generic rodent jokes. But don't expect me to beaver away at them so that you could just squirrel them.

Re:I smell a rat. (1, Funny)

Buchenskjoll (762354) | about 7 months ago | (#44990467)

Has the procedure been rat-ified?

Re:I smell a rat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990487)

No but it went insane due to sensory overload too many rats in police uniform in the station

Rats to detect mines (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990297)

Rats can also be trained to detect mines [apopo.org]

Re:Rats to detect mines (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990509)

what as in no mine, no mine , no mine BOOOM!

Re:Rats to detect mines (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990959)

That rat was only one week away from retirement.

cost effective (1)

jarold (2974817) | about 7 months ago | (#44990307)

that's a cost effective way. nice!

Re:cost effective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990411)

yeah, now the "Dutch" can spend Sterling on rodents which can detect matchshticks.... (paws for uplaws)

no, seriously, the Dutch gov contracted out the "Dutch" company to do their voiceprint recognition for their casino-entry,
the "dutch" have developed a matchstick which can pick out a conversation from a rush-hour bustling trainstation, street, stadium, airport (even an 81-hole golfcourse!), but they cannot stop akamai from stealing fb user data and sending it to the izraelis!

TSA groper: "Sir, we have a bulging packet emitting a superluminous flikker. I have ordered it be traced to how it got past security at port of departure. Permission to perform cavity search?"

TSA superVISOR: "go ahead. i will order a lavatory-exaust probe from the backend."

UK TSA equivalent officer: " `Elf and Safety, we cannot be `avin any investations of rodents `round `ere..."

FYI, RATS HAVE WORM-HOLES!
shtick em up your duqus!

not a dog replacement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990319)

The rats do not go on scene. They are only used in the "lab", which means whatever they are used on will have to be brought to them.

Still better than sensors (1)

Camembert (2891457) | about 7 months ago | (#44990345)

I find it remarkable and interesting that we still can't or at least not easily produce eith sensors the sniffing capabilities of these critters.

Re:Still better than sensors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990361)

Of the human senses, touch and smell are the ones we still can't really match with technology.

Re:Still better than sensors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990449)

What about taste? Though I guess that is closely intertwined with smell anyway.

Re:Still better than sensors (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#44990555)

I find it remarkable and interesting that we still can't or at least not easily produce eith sensors the sniffing capabilities of these critters.

Aside from the fact that the answer would more or less inevitably involve some you-have-fun-fabricating-that micro to nanoscale arrangement of chemical receptors, we labor under the considerable difficulty that we don't really know how scent works.

With something like sight, it's possible to work more or less entirely independently of any real understanding of the eye, human or otherwise, because things like 'primary colors' and color mixing actually work pretty well at handling a wide variety of real-world problems and are simple enough that a decent art curriculum probably covered them before you finished high school. There are certainly horrible complexities ('metallic' isn't a color; but it certainly is a recognizable optical phenomenon, also, please characterize any deviations from the expected result when I take the idealized 24-bit RGB image displayed on my non-ideal 8-bit RBG monitor and send it over to my printer, using CMYK inks...); but 'just put a photosensitive material behind an array of R G and B filters' does actually work. If you proceed to brute-force the hell out of it, it works even better.

With something like scent, we know about plenty of strong and distinctive scents; but nothing 'primary'. Mixing is somewhere between unintuitive and pure black magic, prediction from chemical structures(even if perfectly well defined and provided in whatever form you prefer) is quite difficult outside of a few very well known areas, it's a total mess. Certainly, our ability to (cheaply and quickly, and from very small samples) analyze chemicals in the environment isn't as advanced as we would like; but even if it were, it's not as though we can see ourselves progressing toward the smelloscope, with some technical limitations (as we could in the early days of photography, were basically everything sucked; but basically everything was also precisely analogous to its better-refined contemporary chemical film systems), we'd just be better at identifying molecules flying around in the air.

Re:Still better than sensors (2)

jimshatt (1002452) | about 7 months ago | (#44990717)

we'd just be better at identifying molecules flying around in the air

Which is the goal, ultimately. At least when used to detect drugs, explosives or other illegal substances. So even if it were easier to identify molecules flying around in the air than it is to build a smelling machine, it's easier still to use smelling animals.

Re:Still better than sensors (1)

oever (233119) | about 7 months ago | (#44990741)

The goal is to detect the presence of low amounts of certain molecules related to criminal activity. There is no need to detect scents. So the question is: why are there no cheap and portable detectors that find low concentrations of molecules in the air? Animal scent is based on vibrations in molecules that dock to receptors in the nose. This allows detection of very low concentrations of molecules. Similar systems can now be created artificially [doi.org].

Re:Still better than sensors (2)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 7 months ago | (#44990809)

Animal scent is based on vibrations in molecules that dock to receptors in the nose. This allows detection of very low concentrations of molecules. Similar systems can now be created artificially [doi.org].

There is no compelling evidence that scent (animal or our own) is based upon "vibrations", although such theories do exist. Instead, it seem that odorant molecules bind to receptors in the nose in an analogous way to that by other ligand/receptor pairs, such as neurotransmitters to neurotransmitter receptors. The difference seems to be the most odorant receptors types bind to a range of different odorants. An animal such as s rat has hundreds of different classes of odorant receptor, each of which binds to different sub-sets of odors and so sees the world through a different lens. We think it's by comparing the activities of these different classes that odor discrimination is achieved.

Re:Still better than sensors (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#44990949)

I suspect that you could do it (if nothing else, cheat: anti-drug vaccines are a big area of research, so you can probably find somebody to sell you antibodies targeted at any of the major ones, at which point you smear it on a slide and work out a means of detecting antibody/antigen binding...); but that would probably be a good way to discover the other major virtue of animal olfactory systems:

With rather limited exceptions (certain contact anesthetics will temporarily knock the sense of smell offline, cocaine included if memory serves, and contact with something nasty enough to physically damage the sensory cells: eg. occupational ammonia exposure, squirting zinc solutions up your nose [fda.gov], will eventually toast the sense of smell entirely), organisms are pretty good at self-cleaning. Once exposure to a scent stops, the olfactory system is back and ready for action in short order. Whether this is because it employs some fancy non-binding mechanism, or because 'cells' are the closest things to sci-fi nanites that we know of, I don't know; but it works.

Antibody or chemical-reaction based systems are inherently consumable, and such specialized electronic gas sensors as do exist can be vulnerable to 'poisoning' by environmental contaminants. (Among the more obnoxious, catalytic methane sensors are poisoned by silicone vapors, as found in about a zillion elastomers, lubricants, and all sorts of other things. Just something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in a coal mine... A poisoned methane sensor is indistinguishable from a methane sensor that just isn't detecting any methane, so replace regularly and avoid sparks and open flames.)

"Hide The Gerbils!" - Richard Gere (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990347)

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Filter error: You can type more than that for your comment.

Prior art (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990353)

Police and donuts

Detective Derrick ... just £8 - get more of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990363)

"Detective Derrick and his rat partners cost just £8 each"

I vote for less rats and more Derricks! So cheap

Drop-in replacement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990377)

After years and years of cuts and ever worse cop school results and ever worse policing and oh all the management is the result of "positive discrimination" rules and the boobs up top ("ministers" and sous-minister in name) are plainly only after filling the state coffers with easy money, that's in traffic violations, maybe drug crime and such, not in catching actual crime or protecting the populace, and basically the cops are so painfully obviously a slightly better shade of the dregs of society, it ought to be clear what this is about: It's not about replacing the dogs.

Re:Drop-in replacement (2)

santax (1541065) | about 7 months ago | (#44990409)

Read the article, they are being used to sense gunpowder, not drugs. For once I actually think the police has got one hell of a new co-worker, the lady that noticed the mine-sniffing rats from the army could also be used in the police force to quickly get an idea if someone had fired a gun or not. I am sure there will still be lab-tests, but at least they can go on with their investigation based on a pretty acurate source.

Re:Drop-in replacement (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 7 months ago | (#44990705)

Presumably rats can be trained to sniff for other substances, as well. It's an open question whether each rat could be trained to detect more than one substance, or detectives would have to carry around a golf bag of rats, each wearing a little jacket labeled with what substance it can sniff. Still, better to carry a golf bag of rats than a golf bag of German shepherds!

Re:Drop-in replacement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44995025)

Presumably rats can be trained to sniff for other substances, as well. It's an open question whether each rat could be trained to detect more than one substance, or detectives would have to carry around a golf bag of rats, each wearing a little jacket labeled with what substance it can sniff. Still, better to carry a golf bag of rats than a golf bag of German shepherds!

There's just one kind of rat, trained to smell brown people. It's so when they get searched they can blame the rat. K9 units will falsely alert on a clean object if the guide was told there was an object to be found, to say nothing of hand signals.

In Sovjet Netherlands ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990385)

In Sovjet Netherlands, Rat smells you!!!

Re:In Sovjet Netherlands ... (2)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 7 months ago | (#44990423)

Sovjet? We have a king, you insensitive clod!

Re:In Sovjet Netherlands ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990437)

i can "sense" the phoney-call now...

"hallo, shumm-wunn call out 9/11, 'V' heff enn izzraylee wiffin from explo sieben!"
*call da corona*

emdox, wfat iz AMDOCS?

'Recruit' is the wrong word here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990429)

... more like pressganged.

What are we gonna do tonight brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990489)

The same thing we do every night pinky... sniff for coke and explosives!

Are capable of being trained? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990501)

Cut the manager-speak. "Can be trained".

Pounds? (3, Informative)

pahles (701275) | about 7 months ago | (#44990517)

In the Netherlands rats (and dogs) as well as their training are paid in Euros, not Pounds...

Re:Pounds? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990563)

really?!? so shouldnt the police be tracking down the jEUrocRATS that STOLE ALL THE GUILDERS?
sounds like something from EndeMOLE!

quick quest bob,
the "other" hidden comments; izzit suggestive that someone called 9/11 from the Dutch East Indies company, juST BEFORE THE TERRORISTS ATTACKED?
Dutch "security"; izzit problematic at the airport (where the attackers boarded)? izzit the "BORDER"?

any jEUz round ere gunna get "rolled-op"

Judah Benjamin was not an English agent, nor was he anything other than a Korporate-banK-Klansman...

the Dutch are raceless-ts, for one needs horseferry-deck-deco for fueling antagonism.

Re:Pounds? (2)

Gorath99 (746654) | about 7 months ago | (#44990623)

In the Netherlands rats (and dogs) as well as their training are paid in Euros, not Pounds...

I suppose they're paid in pounds of food. Though in that case it is more properly kilos.

Re:Pounds? (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | about 7 months ago | (#44990725)

It should read "Detective Derrick and his rat partners cost just eight pounds on the head each and are capable of being trained to...". Because while rats don't care about money, they dislike being pounded on the head a lot.

Re:Pounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44992401)

not sure if that was a Shylock novel or a Sherlock novel....
how much does 13 Sshekels work out 2B (bb) (nis-$ 4X)
errr.... yup, a Pound

Re:Pounds? (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 7 months ago | (#44990695)

Yeah, but the original story was from wired.co.uk, so the original author converted the cost to UK currency for his intended audience. It does look weird when the story gets re-circulated outside the UK.

Re:Pounds? (1)

bitt3n (941736) | about 7 months ago | (#44993029)

In the Netherlands rats (and dogs) as well as their training are paid in Euros, not Pounds...

if I were a dog, I would be pretty miffed if a pound was my reward after years of faithful service

Re:Pounds? (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 7 months ago | (#44995809)

The article, if you scroll to the bottom, originates from wired.co.uk. The author chose to localize the currency, which is fairly standard practice.

Also for illness detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990697)

In africa they are now running a project to train rats to screen people for tuberculosis infection. Higher accuracy and roughtly 100 times faster than a doctor.

Reliable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990733)

Are rats reliable? What is the rate of false positives?

Rat Training Survival (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44990785)

The training procedure is straightforward: the rats are kept in a cage with four metal tea strainers attached inside, one of which contains gunpowder. When the rat recognizes the smell, it is rewarded with a "click" and a small treat.

When the wrong one is identified, the gunpowder is ignited. Then training begins for the next rat.

"Detective Derrick and his rat partners"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991063)

First of all, what a great name for a band!

Second, Derrick *and* his rats cost eight pounds each? "Okay, I'll take two Derricks and five rats. Fifty-six pounds? Great!"

Isn't this.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991381)

...a form of nepotism?

Black Plague Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991547)

Time for another depopulation of Europe?

Fairy tales (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 months ago | (#44991763)

This reminds me of a fairy tale. Now what was the moral of the tale again? Ahh yes, I remember...

Why not just use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991765)

bees?

subjectsaresooooo2011 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991911)

So you are writing on an American site about Dutch police, and give the amounts in english pounds?

In liberal Netherlands... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44992563)

In liberal Netherlands, the rat smells you!

Better Than Dogs (1)

EndlessNameless (673105) | about 7 months ago | (#44994013)

Since rats do not learn human social cues readily, it would be difficult for anyone to teach it to "hit" on a person or vehicle they want to search.

This offers a modest resistance to misuse (compared to police dogs).

Re:Better Than Dogs (1)

Optimal Cynic (2886377) | about 7 months ago | (#44997767)

"Since rats do not learn human social cues readily" - based on what? Ours learn social cues very quickly. They bond to their people more closely than dogs.

This could work in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44994347)

But first they'll need to train the sniffer rats to move when their handler coughs and whenever they see a black person. "The rat smelled drugs, we're going to have to search you!"

This may also remove the bias (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 7 months ago | (#44995533)

Dogs are mostly interested in being good pack animals and pleasing the alpha. When your handler is pleased by getting to search vehicles/bags/etc...

I'm almost completely convinced that police dogs are merely a slight sophistication of "Hey look, *smash*, your taillight is out."

Do rats have such social capabilities?

Re:This may also remove the bias (1)

Optimal Cynic (2886377) | about 7 months ago | (#44997781)

Rats are exceptionally social animals. They don't accept humans as their alpha, although they are willing to adopt them as a particularly stupid baby.

Gunpowder? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 6 months ago | (#45117553)

Is that a single, double or triple base gunpowder? Or black powder? be embarrassing to have the rats trained to find what the bad guy's aren't using in their pipe bomb.

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