Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pa. County announces new K9 member that can sniff out .. child predators?

Media, PA (YC – Gov.) – Today Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan and Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI), announced the newest member of the District Attorney’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Pennsylvania Task Force.

Charlie, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, is the first and only electronic-detection forensic K9 in Pennsylvania and one of less than two dozen across the country, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Photo of Charlie, courtesy of Homeland Security Investigations.
Photo of Charlie, courtesy of Homeland Security Investigations.

As an electronic-detection K9, Charlie has been trained to track the distinct chemical smell of small electronics that humans are not able to detect. Her unique abilities allow her to pinpoint the exact location of electronic devices and locations where electronics were located previously. Charlie is in the courthouse daily and enlists her skills by joining ICAC detectives during their investigations and the execution of warrants.

Following a press conference on Sept. 13, a demonstration was held when Charlie showed off her unique skills by successfully locating a flash-drive hidden by detectives in the council public meeting room earlier in the day. For her efforts, she was awarded with a round of applause and her favorite toy, a green tennis ball.

In many of the cases ICAC investigates, the evidence often includes pornographic photos of children which are located on storage devices and drives. As technology devices become smaller in size, criminals are better able to hide evidence of their crimes and are creative in concealing incriminating photos. In addition to tablets and laptops, Charlie can find a variety of small electronics including hard-drives and micro-SD cards.

Charlie just recently finished a two-week long training in Ohio with her handler, Nat Evans, a forensics analyst in the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division (CID).  Charlie was trained by Gerald Azzi of Azzi International Service for Dogs in Delaware County, Ohio. The dogs he trains come from a company called “TK Hot Retrievers” in Idaho. Gerald Azzi has been training dogs for more than 35 years.

“We are excited to introduce Charlie the first and only ICAC electronic-detection K9 in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “Charlie has the ability to detect objects that would be impossible to find. We are excited to have her on the team and look forward to her contributions in helping bring predators to justice.”

“Charlie is a great addition to our ICAC team in their daily efforts to bring predators to justice,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “In Delaware County, we are constantly looking at how we can advance our abilities and forensic capabilities to catch predators. Amazingly, Charlie can find elements of a crime that even the most seasoned investigator can miss, which are essential for prosecution.”

In 1999, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office formed the ICAC task force as one of 61 units operating across the country with the goal to protect the community against predators who use the Internet to victimize children. ICAC interacts regularly with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), providing assistance during investigations.

In 2016, a total of 3,003 cyber tips were received in Pennsylvania which led to 303 arrests, 29 of which were made by the Delaware County ICAC Task Force. Through their investigative work, ICAC detectives identified seven victims of abuse with pornographic images. This year, more than 2,678 cyber tips have been received state-wide since July 1, and there have been 29 arrests made by detectives in Delaware County.

Led by Sergeant Kenneth Bellis, the Delaware County ICAC Task Force has three detectives, two forensic analysts, two analysts who investigate cyber tips, and now Charlie the K9. In addition to investigating and prosecuting crimes against children committed online, the ICAC Task Force Program strives to raise awareness of the potential dangers of the internet through educating children, parents, law enforcement officers, and professionals who work with children.

Anyone with information about criminal activity related to the possession or dissemination of images of child sexual assault is urged to call the Cyber Tip Line at 800-843-5678. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children hotline is also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-THE-LOST.

For more information on Internet safety, visit www.onlinesafety.com.

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