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15 September 2017, 12:15
Two British police dogs have become the first outside the US to be trained in catching terrorists, paedophiles and fraudsters.
Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police have trained two canines to detect digital storage devices, such as USB sticks, SD cards and hard drives.
Tweed, a 19-month-old springer spaniel, and Rob, a 20-month-old black labrador, have already been assisting operations across the UK.
Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "This is an historic step for policing in the UK. These dogs will give the police a new way to fight the threat of terrorism, paedophiles and fraudsters.
"Tweed and Rob have been used by police at crime scenes and executions of warrants, not just within Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, but across the whole UK.
"The dogs have been used to sniff out data devices such as mobile devices, USB sticks, SD cards, hard drives and computers.
"Once again, we have shown that we are prepared to look at new technology and will always strive to get one step ahead to tackle criminality."
The force launched a pilot scheme last year after police dog instructor Pc Graham Attwood discovered the first digital storage detection dogs were trained by the Connecticut State Police Department.
Pc Attwood said: "Myself and members of the alliance dog school initially handled and trained Tweed and Rob, mainly in our own time, as we were committed to our usual daily duties of training the force's other operational police dogs.
"The majority of the dogs we have in the force either come from our puppy breeding scheme or are gift or rescue dogs, but this was a unique challenge for us so we identified and purchased Tweed and Rob last December when they were around 15 months old, and embarked on this journey with them."
Mike Real, a retired Connecticut police officer who co-founded the training programme, and Special Agent Jeffrey Calandra, who is the only digital detection dog handler in the FBI, were invited to Devon for a week to train with and assess Tweed and Rob.
Mr Calandra said: "In today's tech-driven world, crime has no state or even country boundaries, so helping our law-enforcement partners around the world develop cutting edge detection capabilities is key to fighting crime and terror."
Pc Attwood added: "Our digital dogs have already proven to be a success and have been used in over 50 warrants executed across the UK, including Hampshire, Essex, South Wales, and North Yorkshire.
"We have already seen some really fantastic results from these two dogs. Tweed on one warrant indicated that something may have been within what looked like a coke can. This was then inspected by a search officer and discovered that it was actually a money box which had a number of SD cards hidden within it.
"Rob has also indicated a small device hidden carefully in a drawer which would have likely been missed by the human eye, which just goes to show that they are able to locate these items which assists us greatly with our searches."
Rob and Tweed are part of a trial, and the force will assess the success of these dogs and their new skills at the end of the 2017 with a view to rolling it out wider.
The dogs live at home with their new full-time handlers Pc Martin King and Pc Jill Curnow.