A young black Labrador is the police’s latest recruit to a new, highly specialized form of investigation. The puppy, named URL, is trained to sniff out electronic devices during police searches. URL hunts down USB drives by the scent of chemical compounds emitted by the device.
Another black Labrador named Bear – one of only nine dogs certified to sniff out USB drives –helped the arrest of former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle on child-porn charges. The police, when searching Fogle’s house, failed to find the incriminating storage device. Bear was brought in and almost immediately found the drive that led to Fogle’s conviction.
Both URL and Bear were trained by the same person.
Bear was also part of the case against former gymnastics coach Marvin Sharp, charged with child molestation. According to Bear’s trainer Todd Jordan, the dog found several SD cards hidden inside a gun safe. “And you know how airtight those safes are,” Jordan said. “It goes to show how sensitive their noses really are.”
After being fully trained by Jordan, URL was sold to the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force. According to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, URL is the only ED K9 in the western United States.
The new owner of URL, Det. Cameron Hartman, says that the department paid more than $10,000 to recruit the dog. Hartman and his new companion are part of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The detective confirmed that URL has already proven himself useful in several child-porn investigations.
“If there’s an investigator that has a belief that there might be evidence concealed on an electronic storage device, then that’s where (URL) would come in,” Hartman explained.
“He actually found a USB that was in this jar that was closed, and the jar was in a box, and the box had stuff in it. The jar itself had stuff in it.”
These dogs take months to be field-ready. At Jordan Detection K9 in Indiana, the electronic detection dogs require six months of intense training. “The only time a dog eats is when he works,” explained Jordan. The dogs train for three hours a day, every day.
Despite lengthy training periods and high prices, police departments are lining up for their own ED dog. “I’ve had several people call. I have, like, 16 departments pursuing this. It just depends on who gets the money,” said Jordan. The trainer has two more dogs ready to join police departments.
Hartman is hopeful that these specialized K9 units will change the future of police investigation. “I look back on all the other cases that we as a team have investigated and served search warrants on, and it makes me think, ‘What have we missed?'”
“Even if he worked 19 years and we were only able to get one really bad guy with him, to me that’s worth it.”