K-9 electronic sniffer dog Niko works on child exploitation cases in NH
PORTSMOUTH – There’s a member of the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with a nose for electronic devices used to exploit the young and the innocent.
Who is this formidable weapon in the fight against the exploitation of children in the Granite State? For starters, he has a good nose, crawls on all fours and his job is based in Portsmouth.
Meet Niko, an almost 3-year-old yellow lab weighing 65 pounds, the state’s first ICAC K-9 electronic storage detector. Brought in to help search across New Hampshire inside homes where there are images of child sexual abuse and perpetrators, Niko and trained dogs like him are able to detect devices. storage such as cell phones, computers, USB sticks, hard drives, Digital Secure Cards (SD) and micro SD cards.
NH’s only electronics sniffer dog can find hidden storage devices
Portsmouth Police Department captain John Peracchi, former New Hampshire ICAC commander, said Niko was carrying out his work after his human counterparts allegedly swept a residence or building for possible storage devices , sometimes hidden in places invisible to the naked eye or disguised as items like a packet of chewing gum.
On numerous occasions, Niko was able to spot storage devices that the human task force members had not found, some of which were later found to contain large amounts of child exploitation material and pornographic. “It’s to the point now that if we go into a house and they’ve completed a room, you don’t want to be the officer who searched the room first, because he’ll show you,” Peracchi said about by Niko.
The Portsmouth Police Department manages the agency, which is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Justice, and Lt. Eric Kinsman of the City Police Department is the current ICAC commander of the ‘State. He explained that the program is sent to various locations around the state to assist local law enforcement agencies in child exploitation cases. and the majority of advice given to the 61 ICAC agencies across America comes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, based in Virginia.
Electronic service providers such as Verizon and AT&T, and all social and telephone media applications, such as Snapchat and TikTok, are required by the federal government to report images, videos and electronic material that remotely resembles abuse. sex on children, which is screened by NCMEC. From there, NCMEC analysts will view the report and Internet Protocol address of the suspect, recipient, or location from which the files in question were downloaded, and contact the appropriate working group at the ICAC.
Depending on the nature of the case, sometimes the state’s ICAC will be deployed. And when it does, that’s when Niko and his incredible sniffling ability come into the picture.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt Fleming, Niko’s manager, said Niko is the state’s only K-9 electronic storage detection and one of 59 dogs in the country with his level of training.
Niko was trained and purchased with state grant ICAC from Jordan Detection K-9, an Indiana company that specializes in training dogs to hunt with electronic storage devices. One of those K-9s named Bear, who was trained by the company, made crucial discoveries during an extensive search for the home of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle in Indiana in 2015, which ultimately led to his conviction for child pornography.
Since starting his career in May 2020, Niko has been deployed on 104 different occasions to New Hampshire homes, many of which have led to the rescue of children from situations where they have been sexually abused.
Trained in comfort therapy, Niko supports children and investigators
It is not uncommon for Fleming and Niko to carry out several searches per week, sometimes while the minors concerned are still on the scene. “The houses we enter often have children. So once we are done doing his job we can then allow him to interact with the children because his behavior is such that it is not a problem, ”said Fleming. “And, you know, there’s nothing better than having a dog to interact with kids who are going through one of the worst days, if not the worst, of their lives.”
Niko’s ability to boost morale isn’t limited only to those affected by crime. Fleming will sometimes take him to the offices of the investigators assigned to the search warrants. As they examine the contents of the recovered electronic storage devices, in some cases viewing poignant footage or images, Niko walks up to them, sensing their exasperation and rests his head on their knees.
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At Jordan Detection K-9, Niko was also trained in comfort therapy. “It has an incredible impact in terms of well-being,” Kinsman said of his visits. “It’s not uncommon to see Niko walk up to an examiner and nudge him on the knees. They can free themselves from the computer, they can fight him on the ground, they can walk with him, take him for a walk. It is important to have this mental relief for these reviewers. It’s huge.”
On Friday morning, in the back of a Portsmouth Police Department conference room, unbeknownst to Niko, Fleming had set up a little class to highlight the dog’s ability to track scents and locate electronic storage devices.
With the simple command, “Let’s go to work” repeated by Fleming a few times, Niko came to attention, walking with his master towards the back of the room. Fleming asked him to start working, and Niko scanned the width of the back of the conference room, sniffing the surroundings for any devices.
As Fleming repeatedly told the K-9 to “search,” Niko repeatedly sat in certain areas and looked at his master. “Show me,” Fleming was saying, and the dog walked over to where he was sniffing.
Nestled in the exercise were three USB drives, each of which could hold hundreds or even thousands of child abuse images, and Niko found them within seconds. “Go be a dog,” Fleming told Niko after his findings, and the dog happily leaped for a pink chew toy across the room, then received head scratches and belly rubs.
The achievements of K-9 Niko
Niko is, literally, one of the best dogs in the country, when it comes to the location of electronic storage devices, Fleming said, as he has executed more search warrants than any other K-9 in America in the past. shortest time possible.
“Which is quite an honor, but also sad at the same time,” he added.
Without disclosing too many details about the nature of the ongoing case, Fleming said Niko was taken to a western New Hampshire residence on a search warrant, where he located a container with a buried laptop computer. . On this computer, after examination, more than 28,000 child exploitation videos were recovered.
A few months ago, as part of a statewide investigation, Niko sniffed at a cell phone that was in a drawer that contained more than 100 child exploitation videos. During another search, he found a hidden camera being used by a relative for the same criminal purposes.
Although funded by a grant from the Department of Justice, the purchase and training of Niko last year cost the New Hampshire ICAC $ 11,000.
“We said, ‘Well, if we save a kid, it was worth the $ 11,000,’ Fleming said. “And we’ve done it time and time again, we’ve done it many times before. And for us, it’s absolutely fantastic what we’ve done with him and also what he’s done for the state of New Hampshire. He is truly a hero for the state.