How Indy-trained K-9s help hunt down pedophiles

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A black lab who helped authorities arrest a suspected pedophile in Mexico City was trained at a special facility on the east side.

INDIANAPOLIS — At the time detectives had Jason Maatman, an alleged pedophile who once openly advocated sex with children, in custody at the edge of a park in Mexico City, there was another problem.

They did not know where Maatman, in a city of more than 21 million people, might have hidden child pornography they believed to be in his possession. Any material would likely be stored on digital forms, small thumbnails or SD cards, which would be difficult to trace.

Despite Maatman’s speculation that he could flee ongoing court cases in his native Netherlands and, according to the Associated Press, go undetected by Mexican authorities, police had already brought in reinforcements there. exteriors.

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Operation Underground Railroad is a non-profit organization involved in rescuing victims of human trafficking and sex trafficking. The group helped authorities lure Maatman to the park by using a network of trained dogs to detect a specific chemical coated on all electronic devices – from thumbnails to SD cards.

Once a search warrant was obtained, a black lab named Hidu entered the apartment. Within minutes, K-9 had choked out 4 terabytes of child sexual abuse material.

A cellphone left in rancid laundry and electronic devices found in the walls contained a cache of sexually explicit material involving children that authorities suspected Maatman was already working to sell.

The case marked Hidu’s first ever. Just two weeks prior, he had graduated from Jordan Detection K-9, a training academy east of Indianapolis.

Hidu, has always been at the top of his class, according to coach Todd Jordan.

“He always seemed to have the drive for multiple terms,” ​​Jordan said.

The scent these dogs are trained to detect is called triphenylphosphine oxide, or TPPO, and it’s a key tool authorities can use to locate small electronic devices that may contain child pornography or material. sexually explicit.

As criminals become more astute in how they hide child pornography, the dogs Jordan trains can play a key role in finding material that could bring them to justice. While serving a search warrant in Pennsylvania, the 25-year-old trainer recalled how a dog he trained ran in circles until a quarter was found at the scene.

It looked harmless enough – regular 25 cents. The only thing that baffled the authorities was why the dog continued to report for TPPO.

Then they discovered a ring nearby. Jordan hopped this quarterback into the ring and slammed him twice on a table, revealing the micro SD card hidden inside to show other law enforcement how dogs’ noses can answer questions theirs can’t. can not.

“What confuses an investigator doesn’t confuse a dog because they’re reacting to the smell. They don’t care what it looks like,” Jordan said.

Jordan began training dogs to find electronic devices in 2014. The following year, his dogs played crucial roles in two major Indiana child sexual exploitation and pornography cases.

K-9 Bear located a USB drive containing child pornography that belonged to disgraced Subway spokesman Jared Fogle.

After that, Jordan said requests from law enforcement and nonprofits working in the area of ​​human trafficking started pouring in. The same dog also found a gun case containing devices containing child pornography belonging to convicted child molester Marvin Sharp. He was initially missed by the authorities.

“Everyone recognized the fact that these dogs were available and that these dogs can actually find the electronic storage devices that can help with child pornography and child exploitation cases,” Jordan said.

So far Jordan has trained over 83 dogs. Most of the dogs that come to the academy for training come from nonprofits around Indianapolis like I CAN Where Legs with a cause.

“They’ve gone through the years with training to become comfort dogs and foster dogs, and working with people with disabilities. And, while they may not have passed that program, some of their skills are still there.” Jordan said.

Over the course of three to five months, the K-9s are put through various situations intended to train them in the field. Four rooms on the second floor of the academy allow dogs to train in a variety of scenarios: bedrooms, living rooms or other places where electronic devices containing illicit material could be hidden.

The dogs were able to find devices located in ceiling tiles 8 feet above a suspect’s head or in hidden compartments in homes.

RELATED: Detectives arrest 11 men in Johnson County child sex sting operation

“Most people don’t hide it from the police. They hide it from their families. They hide it from their wives. So they don’t think they’re going to get caught,” Jordan said. said.

The acute ability of K-9s to find these devices is needed in several jurisdictions across the country. While Hidu was the first dog to assist with a case outside the country and now works in Thailand, other K-9s assist courts with sex crime investigations across the United States.

Jordan’s latest project involves teaching dogs to locate air beacons, which authorities say are increasingly being used to track the location of young children.

So far, his K-9s have been able to find these devices.

“Everybody uses electronics. Everybody has their phone in their hand. So we’re always trying to find what’s going to be the latest and greatest, where we can follow trends and be able to catch the bad guys,” Jordan said.

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