MERIDEN, Connecticut - The Connecticut State Police K-9 Unit is training special Electronic Storage Detection canines that are able to find any number of electronic devices that might be hidden by criminals.
The search is on as Selma, a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever and her handler Detective George Jupin put in a days work searching a makeshift apartment for several different types of electronic devices that are hidden by their trainer.
"Good girl," Jupin said after Selma discovered a thumb drive.
"Where it might take hours to search an area, we can get it down to minutes often by bringing in the dogs," Jupin said.
The Connecticut State Police were the first in the world to train Electronic Storage Detection canines. Selma, the first dog trained, is now assigned to the Computer Crimes Unit.
"(We've worked) several hundred cases, and she's recovered several hundred items of evidence that otherwise would not have been located," Jupin said.
Selma is trained to sniff out electronic devices like thumb drives, small cameras, SD cards, cell phones and laptops hidden from police in criminal cases. She detects a chemical call TPPO, for short, used in the manufacture of electronic devices.
"The dog is just simply imprinted with that chemical and are capable of finding it in any device that contains it," Kerry Halligan said.
Halligan is an instructor with the State Police K-9 Unit and has helped train eight of the new ESD canines and their officers since the program began in 2013.
"We have dogs down in Virginia, Missouri, up in Alaska and with the Massachusetts State Police," Halligan said. "Now in New York and the FBI."
Detective Brett Hochron, with the Westchester County Police, and 2-year-old Harley are the latest to graduate and are back for certification training. They jointly work with the department and the FBI.
These highly trained ESD canines and their officers have become the newest policing tool battling crimes involving electronic devices.
"Just about every crime involves some sort of digital evidence or digital footprint and the dogs help us locate those devices," Jupin said.
Selma and Jupin have worked together four years, and her sensory abilities still surprise him. And now, with a growing demand for ESD teams, the training is also growing.
"Welcome to the future," Halligan said. "That's the direction with the computer crimes. So we are fortunate that these animals are capable of doing things that are just beyond our capacity."