Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Latest in Law Enforcement Technology: Cell Phone Sniffing Dogs

This blog is really going to the dogs. Earlier we noted a unique way to wash your pooch. Now comes word from Arizona that dogs are being used to combat the use of cell phones by prisoners.
Arizona corrections officials hope to have a dog capable of detecting cell phones in each state prison by the end of 2010, a move that would help authorities locate phones that can help further criminal activity.

The state Department of Corrections has four dogs that are either working or being trained to work in one of the state's 10 prisons to search for cell phones being hidden by inmates, officials said.

Cell phones are banned in prisons. Inmates found with phones can face disciplinary action and even criminal charges, depending on the severity of an incident in which a phone was used.

Inmates can use the phones to conduct criminal activity, including drug transactions and gang business, beyond prison walls, said Ralph Pendergast, trainer for the service-dog program and an administrator with the Corrections Department.

Cell phones also can aid inmates who try to escape or actually do escape, said Angelo Daniels, commander of the Correctional Officer Training Academy in Tucson, where the dogs are trained.

Pendergast said the department began training the dogs last May. Virginia was the first state to start using dogs to find cell phones, he said.

The dogs have helped Arizona corrections officers confiscate about 50 phones so far, Pendergast said.

The dogs are trained to identify four unique odors associated with cell phones and their components, said Kenny Vance, a service-dog trainer for the Corrections Department. The dogs also can detect batteries and phone chargers.

Vance said inmates usually get or buy the cell phones from visitors, contractors who work at the prison and staff members who sneak the phones in.

It can cost between $400 and $800 for an inmate to buy a cell phone inside a prison, Vance said.
Seems to me they ought to do a better job preventing them from being smuggled in.

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