Minnesota police already use canine companions to detect drugs and potential bombs, but now they are turning the dogs loose on sexual predators.
Police recently introduced Sota, a black British Labrador that is the first law enforcement dog in Minnesota that is able to detect the presence of a cell phone and other electronic storage devices, like micro SD cards and USB drives. The idea is that Sota will be able to help investigators find these tiny electronic devices where sexual predators may have stored evidence linking them to their crimes.
Electronic Sniffing Dog
Sota is one of about three dozen dogs in the United States trained to detect these small electronics. These dogs are trained to recognize triphenylphosphine oxide, a chemical coating that is used on electronic memory storage chips.
“K-9 Sota is trained to help find tiny pieces of plastic that may contain critical evidence in a case,” said Drew Evans, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). “[If a criminal] took an item of evidence this small and you just threw it out into the grass and ran out of the house as we’re there, it would be very difficult for any of us to find. She can find it readily and very quickly for us.”
Sota has been on the job since May, and she’s already been deployed in 10 investigations, including predatory crimes and homicides. Evans said she’s located 21 potential pieces of evidence, including a cleverly hidden cellphone from a homicide case.
“This dog is really going to take us years forward,” Evans said, “because her nose is much better, obviously, than any of ours.”
Sota was given to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension thanks to a donation and training made possible by Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit organization that fights sex trafficking. They paid $15,000 to purchase Sota and cover the training costs, and now the BCA covers the bills for her kennel, food and work equipment. But it’s a small price to pay for what she brings to the table.