With law enforcement always advancing in technology and tactics, one area of growth is the use of Electronic Storage Detection (or Electronics Detection) K-9's in the battle against crimes against children.
Earlier this month the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation welcomed its first ESD K-9, Zeus, a 2-year-old, yellow Labrador Retriever. This marks a rise in the use of the special K-9's since the Williamson County Sheriff's Office became the first agency in the state to implement EDD K-9's in its effort to stop criminals in 2018.
WCSO's Electronics Detection Dogs K-9 is Remi, a four-year-old black Labrador Retriever who was trained and donated to WCSO by Nashville K-9 at no cost to taxpayers.
Since then, Detective Sergeant and Digital Forensic Examiner Lee Eaves has been Remi's handler and partner. The pair work together to find hard drives, tablets and other electronic storage devices mainly used in child exploitation investigations.
"The other role that we wanted her to fulfill was community outreach so I use her when I go out to speak to kids about the dangers on online exploitation as well as we use her quite a bit for emotional support as a companionship dog with victims," Eaves said.
"She's really excelled at that and we've found that we've really use her a lot more at that than we thought she would have, as well as offering support for the officers and detectives within the department."
Remi has worked over 20 cases included numerous child exploitation cases, missing persons cases and even a bank robbery, and with a service-life of 8 to 10 years, Remi is just getting started.
While Remi loves to swim, eat bread and have her belly rubbed, her passion and purpose, like that of Eaves, is helping children and solving crimes, proving herself to be a valuable member of WCSO.
Unlike other K-9s who track narcotics, Remi is trained to hit on an organic compound commonly used to prevent overheating in electronics as well as lithium which is found in batteries.
Eaves, who has served with WCSO for about 6 years, said that they have seen a 106% increase in cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from March of 2019 to March 2020 at over 2 million tips.
"We have been extremely busy this year because of COVID," Eaves said. "The reason is that the kids are domicile at home, they can't leave and the online predators are at home as well."
With that increase, Eaves said, is an increase in investigations that he said his department is working hard on and moving closer to arrests and prosecutions.
Eaves said that parents should be aware of resources available to them to help keep their children safe including NetSmartz, which offers free online safety education programs, including age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children be safer online.