Look at this photo, sent by a reader.
“ATTENTION DOG OWNERS,” the sign announces. “As part of a pilot program between Northwestern University and the Department of Public Health, this area has been selected for enhanced dog waste ordinance enforcement. DNA MATCHING AND DRONE SURVEILLANCE IN EFFECT.”
In bright magenta.
“Found this sign on my block (6500 N. Greenview),” the reader wrote.
What do you think?
Have Cook County and Northwestern joined forces to monitor dog poop via drone?
Like much disgorged by the internet, the sign evokes the “No, that couldn’t be, could it?” reflex. You want to dismiss a thing as an obvious fraud. But there’s that little backdoor of doubt. Stranger things have happened.
First to Mr. Google. Slim pickings. A company in the Netherlands, Dogdrones, in 2017 said it would use drones, in conjunction with on-the-ground robots, to clear neighborhoods of dog poop. I sent emails to the two founders, not expecting a reply.
Queries to Cook County and Northwestern — a process we professional journalists call “finding out if something is true.” I recommend it heartily to those who attempt the same by holding up new information against their engrained prejudices to see how well they match.
Northwestern started the country’s first forensic crime lab, trying to solve the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. So this would be in their wheelhouse.
“The University is unaware of any such study,” said Jon Yates, assistant vice president of communications.
The Cook County Department of Public Health pointed out something I ought to have known: it has jurisdiction over the enormous realm that is Cook County except Chicago, Skokie, Oak Park, Stickney and Evanston. They have their own health departments.
“One of the commissioners saw those signs around Northwestern,” said Tom McFeeley, the county health department’s communications manager. “It’s posted outside their jurisdiction. That’s why the dog poop story doesn’t add up.”
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