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By David Brewer
Senior Law Enforcement Specialist
Department of Homeland Security
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
Office of Artesia Operations

Tracking of both animals and humans by footprints has been done since man has been walking the Earth. American frontier history tells of Apache Scouts who were enlisted by the United States military to track Geronimo in the nineteenth Century. Today a dying art has been resurrected and put into use by the military and law enforcement as well as civilian search and rescue. The United States Border Patrol has used tracking for years, successfully following some tracks as far as one hundred miles.

In recent law enforcement history, cases such as the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping, Eric Rudolph and others tell of trackers coming within feet of the victim or suspect. Tracking is now being used by our military forces at war in the Middle East to locate insurgents wishing to kill and injure our troops. Domestically we have law enforcement officers not only tracking during rescue missions but locating violent suspects running from the law. This type of tracking requires new tactics to reduce the possibility of "over tracking" a suspect and getting too close to them without realizing it. This has sometimes resulted in an ambush for law enforcement officers.

Many people are under the misconception that tracking can only be used in wide open spaces like our frontier west. Perhaps that impression is developed through television and movies. But no person can walk anywhere without leaving at least the most minuscule sign which a trained officer can follow. Often tracks are found at homicide scenes in blood or leading through grass. Suspects leave sign on sidewalks in wet or dry conditions, down alleyways, almost anywhere as they move from one location to another.

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