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Meet Larry, the dog who tracks down electronics criminals don't want found

Larry 1.jpg
Ann Thompson
/
WVXU
Larry is an English Lab trained to sniff out electronic devices during search warrants. He is a member of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

The English Lab is the Hamilton County Sheriff Office's newest hire and a gift from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

Police can tell a lot about a criminal by what they find on a computer hard drive, SD card or cell phone. Increasingly, dogs who can sniff out electronics are becoming important as detectives try to build a case against suspected drug dealers and people accused of child pornography.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office now has an electronics-sniffing dog. Larry, a three-year-old English Lab, is a gift from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Larry is one of 38 such dogs, according to Operation Underground Railroad.

During a demonstration for WVXU in a conference room, the canine easily found a cell phone hidden in a drawer and a thumb drive concealed inside an air conditioner thermostat. His handler, Detective Rick Haun, explains Larry must stay at the very place he found something until he is called off.

Larry sniffs out a thumb drive

The reason trained dogs can sniff out electronics is because of a chemical in the manufacturing process to prevent overheating. Triphenylphosphine oxide (TPO) has a scent.

Larry is always training, finding things in the snow, rain and under water. You might think an electronics-sniffing dog would be constantly distracted because of the overabundance of electronic devices these days. But Haun explains Larry only works when he tells him to.

Haun describes what happened on Larry’s first search warrant. “He did find a device that was in a cabinet buried under paperwork. I went in, we scanned the area. He alerted to a cabinet. I opened up the cabinet and didn’t see anything. I scanned him into the cabinet and he actually grabbed hold of the paperwork and shelf and ripped it out of the cabinet.”

Underneath the paperwork was a hard drive.

Interestingly, dogs who sniff out electronics are fairly recent, dating back to when police were trying to catch Jared Fogle. Remember him? He was the Indiana guy who advertised for Subway and then was ultimately convicted on child pornography charges. Law enforcement asked the company that trained Larry if dogs could find electronics and the owner was able to get one to do it.

Larry was originally trained as a seeing-eye dog, and there is one difference between that and the work Larry does now: he is available for pets.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.