In June, the 167th Patrol Dog Class graduated from their canine narcotics and electronic media detection training, held by the Connecticut State Police Canine Unit. At far left is Thoreau, who now helps police in Rhode Island find computer hard drives. Daniel Owen/Courtesy of The Hartford Courant
Police in Rhode Island have a secret weapon to fight child pornography: a 2-year-old Labrador named Thoreau, who’s been trained to sniff out computer hard drives. The dog is credited with finding a thumb drive that was hidden deep inside a metal cabinet last month.
Thoreau was trained by the Connecticut State Police, the Providence Journal reports. Using food as a reward, he’s been taught to detect the scent of flash drives and other devices that can hold illegal images and video.
“If it has a memory card, he’ll sniff it out,” the dog’s handler, Detective Adam Houston, tells the newspaper, which says people who deal in child pornography have reportedly hidden storage devices in everything from ceiling tiles to radios.
Connecticut and Rhode Island are reportedly the only two states that use dogs to sniff out computer memory during searches. Thoreau’s special training took more than five months, according to the Journal.
A recent article by The Hartford Courant heralded Thoreau’s graduation from the training program.
“It’s expensive and extensive the training they go through,” Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said. “Our training program is renowned around the nation.”
The use of dogs to find computer memory was a new one to us here at The Two-Way, after we spotted a mention of Thoreau’s story on Slashdot. On that tech site and at the Journal, a discussion has emerged over how a dog might possibly detect something like a hard drive.
We’ve asked the Connecticut State Police for more details but haven’t heard back; for now, we’ll refer you to the agency’s list of the “Search Articles” that are used to evaluate the dogs and approve them for use in the field. While the list doesn’t’ include a hard drive, some of the items are made from similar materials:
1) Plastic Credit Card
2) Paper Matchbook
3) Shotgun Shell
4) Leather Wallet
6) Metal/Plastic Handgun
7) Article of Clothing