K-9 de­tec­tive will put a tail on child porn

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Alex Rose arose@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @arosedelco on Twit­ter

Who’s a good girl? Char­lie’s a good girl. And she’s good at her job as the new­est K-9 mem­ber of the Delaware County In­ter­net Crimes Against Chil­dren Task Force, where she helps fer­ret out hid­den elec­tron­ics sus­pected of con­tain­ing child pornog­ra­phy.

“Char­lie is the first and only ICAC elec­tronic-de­tec­tion ca­nine in the state of Penn­syl­va­nia,” said Home­land Se­cu­rity Spe­cial Agent-in-Charge Mar­lon Miller dur­ing an un­veil­ing of the 2-yearold Labrador re­triever to the press Wed­nes­day.

“She has game-chang­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” Miller con­tin­ued. “Char­lie can find a va­ri­ety of small elec­tron­ics in­clud­ing hard drives, mi­cro-SD cards, smart phones, tablets and lap­tops. As tech­nol­ogy ad­vances, de­vices be­come smaller and smaller, and crim­i­nals are bet­ter able to hide the el­e­ments of their crimes.”

Delaware County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jack Whe­lan said that is where Char­lie and her han­dler, ICAC foren­sic an­a­lyst Nat Evans, come into play.

“When our in­ves­ti­ga­tors go to the scene of a search war­rant, some­body’s house, it is very dif­fi­cult to find th­ese items un­der floor boards, un­der car­pets, in clos­ets, ac­tu­ally in the top pocket of some­body’s coat jacket that is in the closet, and search­ing th­ese par­tic­u­lar ar­eas, as you may imag­ine, (is) par­tic­u­larly te­dious,” said Whe­lan.

Evans ex­plained that ev­ery­thing on Earth has a par­tic­u­lar scent, in­clud­ing cer­tain chem­i­cals used in the man­u­fac­ture of elec­tronic equip­ment. Char­lie is one of only about a dozen dogs in the coun­try trained to iden­tify those spe­cific odors, said Whe­lan.

Evans said Char­lie has gone out on five searches to date, but is ca­pa­ble of mul­ti­ple searches a day with rest in be­tween. She is usu­ally brought in af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors have al­ready com­pleted a search to en­sure noth­ing hid­den was missed. Char­lie doesn’t al­ways hit on a spe­cific item when she is on to a scent, but might con­cen­trate in an area that Evans will then di­rect de­tec­tives to go over again.

In one case, Char­lie hit on a com­puter tower hid­den in­side a closet un­der a pile of clothes that other­wise

would not have been found, said Evans. In an­other, she hit on a com­puter bag that had al­ready been found and had the com­puter re­moved, but still had a scent at­tached.

“In train­ing, she lo­cated a mi­cro-SD card that was un­der a car­pet,” said Evans.

Char­lie dis­played her unique tal­ent Wed­nes­day by lo­cat­ing a thumb drive hid­den in one of three satchels on the stage of the county coun­cil meet­ing room to a round of ap­plause from those in at­ten­dance. She is also ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing chem­i­cals used in the pro­duc­tion of phys­i­cal me­dia, such as DVDs.

Char­lie un­der­went four weeks of train­ing with her

ini­tial trainer, Ger­ald Azzi of Delaware County, Ohio, and an ad­di­tional two weeks with Evans, pri­mar­ily so he could “read” what she is re­lay­ing when she’s on a search.

Evans said the han­dler tries to se­lect dogs with a very high play drive. In Char­lie’s case, she will sit when she hits on some­thing and re­ceives a ten­nis ball to play with as a re­ward.

“Each year, count­less chil­dren around the word fall prey to sex­ual preda­tors,” said Miller. “Th­ese young vic­tims are left with per­ma­nent psy­cho­log­i­cal, phys­i­cal and emo­tional scars. When a record­ing of that sex­ual abuse is made and re­leased to the In­ter­net,

it lives on for­ever.”

Whe­lan said child pornog­ra­phy is a “plague” that only ap­pears to be get­ting worse. While his of­fice re­ceived slightly more than 3,000 tips on sus­pected child pornog­ra­phy from the Na­tional Cen­ter for Miss­ing and Ex­ploited Chil­dren in 2016, there were 2,700 such tips in the first six months of 2017 alone.

“So this unit, need­less to say, is ex­tremely busy and we are con­stantly in­ves­ti­gat­ing those preda­tors try­ing to vic­tim­ize our chil­dren, not only here in Delaware County, but in Penn­syl­va­nia,” Whe­lan said.

As one of only a hand­ful of dogs trained in her par­tic­u­lar area of ex­per­tise,

Whe­lan said Char­lie might be called upon to go to other parts of Penn­syl­va­nia or even other states to as­sist those law en­force­ment agen­cies from time to time.

The largest cost of the new­est ICAC mem­ber was Char­lie her­self, at $9,500, said Whe­lan. Train­ing cost an­other $1,100. The fed­eral De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity picked up the en­tire tab, Whe­lan said.

When she isn’t ac­tively work­ing, Char­lie is with Evans at the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Di­vi­sion head­quar­ters in Me­dia or at home with his fam­ily. Evans said the dog is a fam­ily pet at home, like any other, and only works when he gives her a spe­cific com­mand. His daugh­ter is also in love with Char­lie and re­quires a kiss from her each night be­fore go­ing to bed, he said.

Evans, who has been with ICAC for eight years, said his new part­ner has been a wel­come change of pace from his usual du­ties.

“I have a pet at home, I have a buddy that goes with me to and from work, for any­body that loves an­i­mals, it’s great,” he said. “My wife is a big an­i­mal lover, so it worked out great. Plus, I’ve been look­ing at child pornog­ra­phy since 2009 and it’s a nice break to not have to do that all day. It’s ther­a­peu­tic, I guess you could say, hav­ing a dog. Ev­ery­body loves dogs. Dogs are great.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Meet Char­lie, the new­est mem­ber of the Delco Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s In­ter­net Crimes Against Chil­dren Task Force. Char­lie can de­tect hid­den com­puter el­e­ments and will be used in the bat­tle on child porn.

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