Florida K9 trained to sniff out child porn now on the job

New Clay County crime fighter can detect hidden electronic storage devices

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County Sheriff's Office has a new crime fighter on duty, but he is not your typical deputy. This one has four legs and uses his nose to find what his human partners cannot.

K9 Ty is a 2-year-old yellow lab specially trained to detect the scent of electronics that have been hidden from investigators. His official title is Electronic Scent Detection Canine, or ESDC. 

"What Ty is trained on is a chemical odor that most of your electronic devices will have in them, and he picks up on that odor," explained Deputy Drew Ford, a spokesperson the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Ty's handler is a detective with Clay County's Cyber Crimes Unit. He works undercover, so we are not revealing the detective's identity, but the I-TEAM worked with the same unit last year when search warrants were served at two homes.

At that time, two men were arrested -- accused of downloading child pornography. Detectives searched their homes for electronic storage devices, which can hold hundreds of images and videos of child pornography. These devices can be small and easy to conceal, but investigators need to find them as they are an important component to building a criminal case against someone accused of possessing child pornography. Detectives now have Ty's nose to help lead them right to those hidden devices.  

"Micro SD cards, thumb drives can be hidden in so many different places," Ford said. "Fake books with the pages cut out, you would never know that they're hiding a microchip or micro SD card in there."

He said suspects have gone to great lengths to hide child pornography. They even discovered a thumb drive hidden inside a curtain rod.

Ty's handler demonstrated how the K9 works. The detective hid a flash drive in an office drawer and then led Ty into the room.  We watched Ty rush around the room, eventually stopping at the drawer. He is not trained to bark but instead to stop and freeze when he "hits" on the odor of an electronic device.  

The Clay County Sheriff's Office is thrilled to have Ty on its staff, especially since Ty is the only ESDC of his kind in North Florida and South Georgia. He was purchased by the Department of Homeland Security office in Jacksonville for the Clay County Sheriff's Office through a federal grant.

Ty will be used throughout Northeast Florida.

"Any tool we can use that will help find electronic devices that these persons are using to exploit our children is a major plus," said Ford.   

When Ty is not accompanying detectives during their investigations, he is used as a therapy dog. His handler said Ty helps ease the anxiety of young sexual assault victims when they are being interviewed by detectives.  

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