Police Have a New Weapon in the Fight Against Child Pornography

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 8 2014 11:14 AM

Police Dogs Are Sniffing Out Hard Drives Filled with Child Pornography

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Smell any thumb drives?

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

We think of police dogs as being trained to sniff for two things: drugs and bombs. But they could learn to detect any manner of contraband. In Rhode Island, law enforcement dogs—specifically one talented golden lab—are looking for hidden hard drives, thumb drives, or memory cards with child pornography on them.

Of course, trained dogs can't smell the type of data being stored, but a thumb drive in someone’s shoe, a hard drive in a ceiling tile, or a memory card tucked deep inside a metal cabinet aren't typical places to keep, say, vacation photos. The Providence Journal reports that having a dog follow every electronic scent while officers execute a search warrant helps them locate stashes they might otherwise miss.

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As Rhode Island state police do their part to battle an entrenched $20 billion child pornography industry, Thoreau, a golden Labrador from the Connecticut State Police Training Academy, is the latest addition to their efforts. While sniffing during his first search warrant in June, Thoreau found an incriminating thumb drive that eventually led to an arrest warrant. Thoreau’s handler, detective Adam Houston, told the Journal, “If it has a memory card, he’ll sniff it out.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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