Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime Idle

Dutch Police Recruit Rats To Sniff Out Crime 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the law-and-order-rat-mystery-club dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dutch Police Recruit Rats To Sniff Out Crime

Comments Filter:
  • by mrspoonsi (2955715) on Monday September 30, 2013 @05:20AM (#44990287)
    I can see an animal arms race there.
  • Rats to detect mines (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

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

  • that's a cost effective way. nice!
  • 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.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday September 30, 2013 @07:04AM (#44990555) Journal

      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.

      • by jimshatt (1002452)

        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.

      • by oever (233119)
        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].
        • 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 t

        • 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,
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In Sovjet Netherlands, Rat smells you!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • Pounds? (Score:4, Informative)

    by pahles (701275) on Monday September 30, 2013 @06:49AM (#44990517)
    In the Netherlands rats (and dogs) as well as their training are paid in Euros, not Pounds...
    • by Gorath99 (746654)

      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.

      • by jimshatt (1002452)
        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.
    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      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.
    • by bitt3n (941736)

      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

    • 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.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday September 30, 2013 @07:35AM (#44990641)

    They must be Rattus Norvegicus.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • Damn (Score:4, Funny)

    by sproketboy (608031) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:56AM (#44990989)

    Even dogs are getting outsourced now. :(

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

    • "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.
  • 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?

    • 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.
  • 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.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

Working...