Ruger is a dog with a full-time job. As the newest member of the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), he is very busy with the important work of saving children. Ruger, a black Labrador retriever, is the first and only electronic-detection K9 in the state of Ohio and one of less than two dozen in the entire United States. Ruger has recently finished training and is expected to execute his first search warrant in October.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) special agents based in Ohio are the lead federal partners with the ICAC. Together, with Ruger, they anticipate even greater success fighting child exploitation in central Ohio.
Ruger brings something very special to the ICAC. As an electronic-detection K9, he is able to detect the distinct chemical smell of small electronics that humans cannot. HSI Detroit’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Marlon V. Miller, whose area of responsibility covers Michigan and Ohio, believes this skill is a ‘game-changer’ in the fight to stop child exploitation and child pornography.
Ruger can find a variety of small electronics including: hardrives, micro-SD cards, smartphones, tablets and laptops. As technology devices become smaller in size, criminals are better able to hide evidence of their crimes. In the cases ICAC deals with, the evidence includes pornographic photos of innocent children. SAC Miller said, “If criminals are living with other people, they will go to extra lengths to hide evidence so others won’t discover it. The people they live with can be totally unaware of what they are doing. Ruger can help lower the probability of us missing something during a search warrant. He can find that iPhone containing child pornography.” Miller made a critical point, “He can find elements of a crime that we need for prosecution; his skills can take us into the future of electronic detection.”
During a search for evidence, Ruger is led by his handler and uses his sense of smell to locate electronic devices. He ‘indicates’ he has found something by sitting down. Amazingly, he is able to find the exact location of electronic equipment. He is also able to indicate where equipment was previously. He is awarded with his favorite treat: a yellow tennis ball.
Franklin County Ohio Sheriff Zach Scott said: “We are always looking for innovative ways to protect children. Ruger provides detectives another tool in fighting online child exploitation. With Ruger, we are one step ahead of the criminals. Ruger can find the really important pieces of evidence the criminal does not want us to find.”
Ruger is an integral part of the ICAC team. The officers he works with consider him their partner. Sheriff Scott explained: “The partnership with HSI and Ruger has resulted in many arrests and we are very excited about it. We handpick officers who are invested in the mission of ICAC. Many of them have children of their own and when they see images of the victims it affects them. They don’t want to see other families, or their own families, victimized. There is a sense of urgency in what we do. We can’t do it without Ruger.”