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Davis Journal

OUR donates cyber-sniffing dogs to hunt down child predators

Jan 12, 2023 12:19PM ● By Becky Ginos

A suspect is arrested for possession of child sexual abuse material. Electronic sniffing dogs assisted investigators in finding the suspect’s hidden devices. Photo courtesy of Jordan Detection K9

WOODS CROSS—Flash (for flash drive) is a specialized Woods Cross Police K9 that can sniff out electronic devices such as SD cards, USBs and hard drives during child sexual abuse investigations. The anti-trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) donated the dog to the department. OUR recently placed the 100th specially trained dog and Flash is one them.

“OUR is a nonprofit that empowers law enforcement all over the world to eradicate human trafficking and child exploitation,” said JC Holt, OUR Director of Domestic operations. “We provide funding to police departments to get the dogs and go through a training program to implement the dogs into the department. We sponsored Woods Cross fully for him and his handler to go to Indiana to be trained.”

Holt said OUR supported Flash when he got home too. “We pay for all of his food, vet bills, etc. Our role is as a funding mechanism. We funded the first dog in 2019. Police Departments have said to us that if not for our donation they couldn’t afford to get a dog.”

It’s all private donors, he said. “We have a variety of supporters who want to further the work in this way. Everybody loves dogs. One donor paid for a dog in its entirety.”

The dogs sniff out a chemical compound called triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO) found in electronic devices, said Holt. “They help find hidden devices. It’s monumental because a lot of offenders are storing illicit material but they don’t store it in the Cloud, they’ve gotten great at reporting and they don’t store it on the computer they’re sitting at because they know law enforcement will seize that.”

Offenders use cellphones, SD cards, thumb drives and hide them, he said. “Investigators are looking for a tiny SD card. To have a dog that can find it is pretty awesome.”

The specialized dogs are trained by Jordan Detection K9 in Indiana. Owner Todd Jordan had been training dogs since 1997 when he heard about TPPO in 2014. “I didn't know dogs could actually do that,” he said. “An ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) task force asked me if I could do it (train). I said, ‘I’ll try.’ The next day I had my first K9 dog.”

Jordan said he got dogs that were too energetic to train for a disability or as a regular police dog but should still be working. “They were jumping on tables, etc. and I would work with them.”

The dogs started going on search warrants with the Indiana ICAC, he said. “One of the search warrants was for Jared Fogle. That got a lot of media attention so agencies wanted to know about them. Police Departments called and wanted a dog.”

In 2017, OUR bought a dog from him for a Seattle task force, said Holt. “OUR sponsored the first couple of dogs then.”

Jordan said they have a facility with a room that’s set up to look like what it would be in a search warrant. “We give the dogs a real world experience. We get them prepared so they’re already ready to go for the two week handler course. We get a personality bio of the handler and look for dogs that are like minded and pair the dog with the right handler. We get that done beforehand so they don’t need to spend eight weeks.”

They get a call or text from law enforcement agencies every day or a photo of a dog at a search warrant, said Jordan. “In one case initially investigators didn’t find a device but the dog did. It was only a micro SD but had 200,000 video images of the victim – the dog saved them. I want to keep pumping out dogs so more kids are being rescued.”

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