In an effort to crack down on the use of portable storage by child pornographers and sexual predators, a police officer in Connecticut has taught a police dog to detect electronic storage devices, such as USB drives, laptops and digital cameras. Police say that digital technologies have made it far easier for pornographers to store, sell and transmit materials.
Police officers have long used dogs to sniff out illegal drugs, and have also trained canines who can identify evidence of arson or locate bombs. The biggest challenge officer faced was finding a chemical that the dog could recognize, that would be present in all types of digital storage devices. After testing flash drives, hard disks and laptops, police isolated a single chemical common to all. They have declined to identify the substance.
Once officers had a scent they believed dogs could identify, they took months to train the dogs. Officers say that the two dogs used thus far can detect the odor of a digital storage device through concrete blocks, metal boxes and clothing. The dogs have also been trained to disregard other strong or alluring smells, such as food or coffee.
The first dog was used by police in October, 2013, and has already helped locate critical evidence. In addition to evidence related to child pornography, the dog has assisted prosecutors by locating hidden storage of fraudulent documents, as well as a murder investigation. FBI officials say the dog tracked a hidden memory card in a sewing machine drawer, allowing detectives to establish a link between a suspect and victims.