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New AFP tech dogs taking a bite out of crime

10 December 2022, 9:09am
Media Release

New AFP tech dogs taking a bite out of crime

Editor’s note: Images of detection dogs and voice grabs are available via this hightail link

They have a nose for sniffing out crime and this year the AFP’s detection dogs have detected cash hidden under stairs, sim cards concealed in shoes and USBs buried in eskies full of food.

The AFP detection dog program added four fully trained dogs this year, making the capability more than 100 canines deployed or in training around the country.

The dogs are often used during the execution of search warrants linked to suspected child sex offenders, terrorists and illicit drug and weapon traffickers.

The dogs specialise in sniffing out many items favoured by criminals including explosives, firearms, currency, drugs and electronic devices.

The evidence they find is often hidden and could otherwise be missed in a search warrant. Using dogs and their keen sense of smell helps support the full range of AFP investigations and allows investigators to save valuable time and get better results in search warrants.

Dogs that can detect cash, firearms, explosives and drugs are a visible presence at the nine airports around the country where the AFP has a policing presence. These capabilities help ensure the safety of the travelling public and making it harder for criminals to operate across domestic and international borders.

Detection dog Coral from Brisbane’s canine unit helped investigators in October this year discover $70,000 cash inside three safes that were hidden inside stairs at a business police allege was being used by a money laundering syndicate.

AFP Superintendent Mark Colbran said investigators would never have found the concealment without the use of a detection canine.

“Criminals attempt to hide their illicit items in all sorts of places such as wall cavities, vehicle hides and under stairs and ceilings but the detection dogs help the AFP stay one step ahead,’’ Supt Colbran said.

AFP Southern Command conducted a week of action to detect illegal firearms at Melbourne Airport using firearms detection dogs in June 2022 and, with their advanced sense of smell, they discovered four prohibited weapons in passengers' luggage.

The program’s technology detection dogs are the elite of the pack with their skill of being able to sniff out tiny electronic devices such as USBs and SIM cards, which are easily concealed due to their small size.

Following a major funding boost for the technology dogs last year, the AFP for the first time had at least one dog deployed in every major capital city. Technology dogs are now deployed around the country undertaking tasks across all crime types.

Across all specialties, AFP dogs have helped police seize 21 firearms and $4.7 million dollars in cash while locating more than 600 concealed items, including mobile phones, USBs, sim cards and other electronic devices since 2021.

The AFP National Canine Program in Canberra runs a satellite puppy foster care program in conjunction with Australian Border Force (ABF), which has been breeding dogs for detection work since 1993.

Last year the AFP, with assistance from carefully selected foster families, raised four puppies. Three graduated from the technology detection program and one became an explosives detection dog.

To graduate as an AFP detection dog, the dogs are evaluated first in a six-week, pre-course training process before moving into a 13-week, handler evaluation program that identifies the best dogs to move onto advanced training in Technology Detection. Dogs not suitable for the technology detection dog program often end up in another specialty area.

Eight Labrador pups were introduced into the AFP training program in 2022. The pups joined when they were just nine weeks old and are expected to graduate as fully fledged AFP canines in 2023.

AFP Acting Inspector Canine and Aviation Mark Holmes said the new Labrador pups were representative of the high calibre of canines bred by the ABF.

“The AFP’s detection dogs have proven themselves time and time again and are renowned by our domestic and international partners as being some of the best in the world,” A/Insp Holmes said.

“The dogs have continued to deliver results this year to support AFP investigators, they play an important and vital role to our work.”

Labradors are the most common breed in the program because of their hunting genealogy and availability through the ABF breeding program.

German Shepherds, Malanois and Belgian Shepherds are used for the ACT Community Policing Canine team due to their drive, focus and propensity to work well within the role.

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