back to article Pennsylvania cops deploy electronics sniffer dog to catch child abusers

Sniffer dogs have been used to detect drugs and explosives for years, but now Delaware police have a new type of K-9 – one trained to sniff out hard drives and electronic storage devices. The doggy detective, a two-year-old female Labrador retriever named Charlie, has been trained to detect the chemicals used in the …

  1. Jim-234

    Good luck at any self respecting BOFH's home

    That may work for some people, but the dog may get a bit worn out when they get to a house that has 15 years of discarded storage devices under every couch, cabinet, desk drawer and in every other odd place conceivable.

    Not to mention if you wanted to actually mess them up, just grind up old CDs & storage devices and bolster your attic & wall insulation and your couch stuffing & your garden.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Good luck at any self respecting BOFH's home

      Ah, security by obscurity!

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Good luck at any self respecting BOFH's home

        Ah, security by obscurity!

        It's known as chaffing - hide a secret by burying it in lots of other stuff that looks (or smells in this case) like the secret to an attacker.

        More security by massively increasing the effort needed.

      2. Chemical Bob

        Re: Good luck at any self respecting BOFH's home

        "Ah, security by obscurity!"

        More like security by impurity as you are polluting your house (sort of).

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Good luck at any self respecting BOFH's home

          When the police force entry to a BOFH's home they will be heard to yell...

          "Hands up against the wall - this is a RAID"

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Probable cause

    They are sniffing the luggage of passengers for electronic devices - after we have been 'encouraged' to put anything electronic with a battery in the luggage.

    So this wouldn't be an excuse to open anyone's luggage for a quick search because the dog suspected there were child abuse images?

    I wonder how they have manged to screen for the dog not to react to the handler's attitude or body language to people of a minority ? Do they blind fold the dog and handler?

    1. DNTP

      Re: Probable cause

      I think Homeland Scrutiny and the Theatrical Security Administration will not take such an extreme position that any dog hit on any electronic device will be enough to confiscate and search the device on the grounds that, being electronic, it might contain underage material. These organizations have show to act with discretion and common sense toward threats and civil liberties in the past and to suddenly take such a stance would be out of character for- Who the fuck am I kidding, they would do this in an instant.

    2. vir

      Re: Probable cause

      They do this already, no "suspicion of electronics" needed. I don't pack electronics - haven't owned a laptop for years - and still get the little "we took a peek inside your luggage" cards in my bags from time to time. I usually try to put the dirty laundry right on top.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Probable cause

        "I usually try to put the dirty laundry right on top." - Now go to a sewage treatment plant for a few hours in the shit and see how smelly your laundry is. I doubt the average goon would have the stomach for the stench.

      2. Montreal Sean

        Re: Probable cause

        Sorry about the skid marks, I found a particularly fine Indian establishment last night...

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Probable cause

        ' "we took a peek inside your luggage" cards in my bags'

        might also be fun to include a small number of really _odd_ items, like a ginormous bra, a male stripper's g-string, a laminated photo of "whatever" (livestock for example) with lipstick prints on it, some hard-corn porn [the funnier the better], and a strange-looking device that vibrates when the switch is turned on, all clearly visible when the baggage is opened. Heh.

        waiting for "we took a peek inside your luggage, and were horrified at the nightmare fuel, and now need brain bleach, so thanks for THAT image that won't get out of our brains" cards to be placed inside...

      4. ITS Retired

        Re: Probable cause

        "I usually try to put the dirty laundry right on top."

        Doesn't matter. They don't care, as they wear gloves. Probably the same gloves all day, or until they get a hole in them. How many hash marked skivvies, smelly socks and recently used toys have those gloves come in contact with, before they handle your clean stuff.

    3. Tikimon Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Probable cause

      "I wonder how they have manged to screen for the dog not to react to the handler's attitude or body language"

      THEY DON'T. It's called "triggering", and the cops do it on purpose. They give the dog calls to get it worked up (GET IT GET IT GET IT!) it and guess what? The dog does what his handler wants of course, and gives a Hit response. Dog not finding drugs? Just trigger it and you can search anyway!

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Probable cause

      dogs can tell people of different races easily, because we smell different to them. White people who invite their black friends over (and have a dog that's not used to black people) can verify that one. Dogs freak out sometimes, go into barking fits for no reason, etc.. The inverse is also true.

      so yeah you might get a prejudiced dog that barks at the black man's luggage... [what do THEY know of SJW's and various civil rights laws - they're DOGS]

      (oh, and the premise that people of different races are unfairly profiled - I don't believe it really happens in any significant amount)

    5. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Probable cause

      I always wonder why when they reveal that it's a retriever, shepherd, malinois, or other general purpose breed which is what I'd expect for dogs on patrol. Given these are dedicated sniffer dogs, why aren't they scent hounds like beagles, foxhounds, bloodhounds, etc.?

      1. B*stardTintedGlasses

        Re: Probable cause

        Oddly it falls down to the ease of training from what I remember from chatting to the MoD dog teams back in my uniform days.

        Basically you need a "smart" breed, and that tends to be the gun-dog type rather than the sniffers/pack hunters. That gives you the basis for teaching them and having them get the concept.

        Then you need a strong "prey/play" drive, which is reward focused and allows conditioning for behaviour and task. As mentioned in the article, "I find the thing, I get my toy".

        Finally it is a question of multi-role, something like a K9 team being deployed by police and military is more useful if the dog is big enough and trained to also do suspect tracking and pursuit. Think shepherd breeds etc, they are fast, focussed, and you sure as hell go to the floor when one does an arm-bite takedown on you. Less so with a beagle...

        In fairness, there are things like spaniels on some police sniffer dog teams, but when on patrol they are often deployed with a German shepherd in the car too. (The big estates they deploy in hold a couple of "kennels".

  3. Dave 126 Silver badge

    There once was a Welshman who wrote a popular book. He was in the import business. He describes wrapping his product in plastic, washing it in diesel, then wrapping it again and washing one more time.

    It reminds me of a story of when Lego made wooden building blocks. The founder insisted on three coats of paint. His son suggested they could save money by using only two costs of the paint. The son received a bollocking.

    The Welshman, whose memory had been degraded by his line work, was asked how his autobiography was so clear on dates and events. Well, he just put in an FOI request to the FBI who had been watching him for years.

    On OpSec: [Policeman]: If we fuck up we get early retirement. If they [gang members] fuck up, they get beats [beaten up, not headphones obviously].

  4. Herby

    I suspect...

    That a dip in ammonia (let air dry) will probably do the trick.

    As for the particular case, I suspect that they already had a warrant for the entire premises, and locating the nasty device was the task at hand, the pooch assisting. Just a time saver for the police who didn't want to paw through "everything".

    Of course "encrypted cloud storage" is the order of the day.

    Yes, beware of the BOFH!

  5. DNTP

    I'm waiting for the day

    When a police officer argues before a judge, with a straight face, that his K-9 hero on a leash next to him can not only smell out hidden digital storage, but also that it can detect hidden storage specifically containing illicit pornography. The capacity thereof never confirmed with a rigorously double-blind scientific study, but anecdotally "in his experience as an officer of the law."

    And the judge either nods ignorantly, or winks and smirks, and slaps his signature on the search warrant.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: I'm waiting for the day

      In the UK the judge panics and hides his stash of kiddy porn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm waiting for the day

        Why would they need to?

        Everybody knows that higher ups in the chain are immune from child porn charges.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: I'm waiting for the day

          "Everybody knows that higher ups in the chain are immune from child porn charges."

          Tell that to Lady Brittan and Lord Bramall.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm waiting for the day

            I'd imagine they'd be immune from their homes being raided, which isn't the same as being charged. Note that no one was arrested:


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still depends on the Police willingness to prosecute or not

    A couple of sniffer dogs, one a corpse detecter, the other a blood detector, were used on a certain Portuguese holiday apartment - both dogs detected what they were trained to, yet no further investigation was ever carried out in light of the positive result.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Scotty Response

      Ma Caan no believe it Cap'ain

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still depends on the Police willingness to prosecute or not

      What are you on about? that generated a search warrant and nothing was found.

      These animals produce a lot of false positives (and we don't know how many false negatives). They are incredibly effective, but an indication alone is of no value and not normally worthy of comment. But far be it from me to stop you perpetuating a long debunked conspiracy myth to torture an innocent family for whatever reason you have.

  7. Nolveys Silver badge

    Why is it that when I read this article all I can think of is the time Homer Simpson became fixated on the ad for clown college?

  8. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Sniffing out covert cameras and listening devices...

    ...will arguably be the most productive use for these dogs.

    Three Letter Agencies will have to start deploying such devices with chemical-smell neutralising chemicals so that their equipment doesn't get revealed.

    Now about RFID's. Will dogs be able to differentiate between them and "items of interest"?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe I'm being a bit simple but isn't the dog going to go for any phones in the house or search area?

    1. rmason Silver badge

      You're not being stupid. Phones have storage and are incredibly incriminating (if you've been upto no good, and probably even if you haven't).

      They will take the lot. If they're at the point where the sniffed dog is in your home, then they already have a warrant (in the states) and one that I imagine will allow them to take and check everything electronic that may hold evidence. Whatever the hound finds is all gravy, worth a check. The point is it should find things likes phones (even though they probably have that already) *AND* anything that might be hidden that the police wouldn't have found.

  10. James 51 Silver badge

    Do the police strip themselves of all electronics when the dog is on the hunt? Is the dog chipped in case it escapes? What happens to a chipped pet?

  11. Joe Harrison

    Just get a dog

    In my experience dogs are obsessed with the smells of other dogs above all else.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Just get a dog

      spray can of 'dog smell' - spray on luggage before traveling

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Just get a dog

      So having successfully uncovered a juicy hard drive - a Terrierbyte one (groan*) - will the dog "mark its territory", thus rendering said hard drive irrecoverable?

      *C'mon fellow commentards, you're slipping for me to be the first to post that one, unless it's that awful (never stopped you in the past though, eh?).

  12. Tikimon Silver badge


    OK then, let's scatter about a selection of old flash cards, each infected with a different choice of the nastiest malware we can find. Go ahead, load that into your computer, Officer Jackboot. Ditto the grinding up a few and scattering the dust around the whole house and yard. It won't stop them, but it might temper their glee at finding hidden storage devices.

  13. hatti

    I was in the middle of composing this comment when one of El Reg's sponsors alluded to a tasty treat called a McChicken Legend, that smells better to my untrained nasal passages than a polluted hard drive.

    Off for a McDrive

  14. El

    I would think any up-to-date pedos would be using 256GByte flash sticks, not hard drives. Much easier to conceal!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sticks? Try uSDXC. Much smaller, if more expensive.

  15. Mike Rodgers

    So that extra memory card that has all my vacation pictures on it that I just took is arbitrarily going to be confiscated - because the damn dog smelled it?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So that extra memory card that has all my vacation pictures on it that I just took is arbitrarily going to be confiscated - because the damn dog smelled it?!

      The real question is why are the police at your house with sniffer dogs?

  16. Robert Moore

    Sniffer dogs

    Many many years ago I was working security. One Saturday a Police officer asked if he could come into the guard shack where I was working. He explained that they were doing a training exercise with a new tracking dog, and could I allow the person being tracked to hide in the shack. I wanted to see how this worked, and allowed it. The cop radioed that it would be OK. Told me that the cop would be coming from the right, and crossing the road several times.

    I watched the officer cross the road, and come into the guard shack. I showed him to a place where he could sit out of sight. he radioed that he was ready, I then watched the dog follow his exact path directly to the guard shack, and right to him.

    These dogs are truly amazing. If they claim they have trained a dog to sniff out storage devices I believe them.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Sniffer dogs

      Can the dogs sniff out remote controls?

      And can I borrow one?

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