The Crime Prevention Website

We all know that for well over 160 years the police service has employed dogs to assist them in all manner of tasks, including tracking and bringing down criminals, sniffing out drugs and explosives and being at the side of a police officer when engaged in public order events. Horses too have played an important role and the obvious reason why is that both dogs and horses can be trained.

Imagine my surprise then when I read the following press release about the Isle of Man police service’s crime fighting cats!

The Manx Red (Felis Catus Manxus Rubrum), which is related to the Manx cat (except it doesn’t have a shortened tail), is apparently unlike most other domestic cats in that it can be trained in a similar fashion to a dog. Obviously they’re not as adept at running after escaping criminals and knocking them over, but they do have very specific uses as the press release (edited) informs us today.....

Chief Inspector Catherine Fellfritt of the island’s Dog [and now Cat] Section explains that they’re used more for their stalking ability than anything else. 

She said: “The Manx Red has the ability to learn and recognise places and faces and with extensive training we’re able to deploy them to track individual suspects. As you know, cats have considerably better eyesight than we do and can see extremely well in the dark. When they close in on the suspect (they have been trained to recognise) they do what any other cats do.  It’ll crouch down and crawl slowly towards its ‘prey’. Normally it will get within 25 metres of the suspect, close enough for us to gather a good image.  Our cats are fitted with GPS trackers, so if an immediate arrest is warranted then we can find the cat and the suspect almost immediately.

“Although we can’t give away our training methods I can say that we select the candidates when they’re just kittens and by around six months we’ll know which individuals might progress on to become members of our police team.

“We started operations just over a year ago and while this is only a pilot project we’ve used two of our ‘Reds’ to successfully track down two individuals we’ve been trying to find for months and they found them in just two days!”

As well as GPS trackers the cats are fitted with miniature cameras, which transmit the images to ‘the cloud’. This means that the recordings can be examined almost in real time.  The pilot received support and additional funding from the Home Office after a Manx Red was used to successfully track down a man wanted for sheep rustling on the island. “Following our known suspect over the wild moors of the island and catching him in the act was simply not practical” remarked Chief Inspector Fellfritt, “So using ‘Doris’ to secure the information we needed was the natural thing to do. We were absolutely delighted when Doris found the man and with the evidence she found we were able to bring a successful prosecution.”

Mr Alan Woode, the Lieutenant Governor of the island said: “In all my days I had no idea that a cat could be trained to follow someone.  I must admit that I found the whole idea preposterous, but when I saw the evidence and witnessed the dedication of the officers and trainers at first hand I was immediately sold.

“The possibilities for their future use are, frankly, limitless, but of course we must ensure that they’re deployment meets with the strict code of practice, which the island’s police have already drawn up.

“I must congratulate the Chief Inspector wholeheartedly for discovering the Manx Red’s crime fighting ability, an ability that was hiding in plain sight all along”

The pilot is set to run for a further twelve months, but already mainland police forces, including Cumbria Constabulary, have expressed a keen interest. 

Chief Inspector Fellfritt reminded everyone at the press launch today that they had had to take into account issues such as Data Protection, the Freedom of Information Act and the Human Rights Act. “We can’t just set a Red on just anyone” she warned “There’s has to be a very real reason for the follow” The police have also worked very closely with the local branch of the RSPCA to ensure that their training methods and the work the cats are expected to do does not breach legislation.

Inspector Tom Catcher, spokesperson for the RSPCA, who was at the press launch, said “We’ve known about the ‘Reds’ ability to track for many years. Early last century hunters on the island would take the cats with them to retrieve birds, just like you would a hunting dog, but I have to congratulate the island’s police for finding such a positive use for the Red’s natural ability; quite incredible.”  

........It seems that the Manx Reds are usually away from the base station for anything up to two days before returning for a well earned feed and rest by the fire. Whether they know what they’re doing to help the people of the island we’ll never know, but the island is most definitely a safer community with their ‘purrlicing’. (Please excuse that dreadful pun)

For more on this story, images and the full and very interesting press release, please click here:

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